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The impacts of long border wait times

 May 3, 2024 at 3:51 PM PDT

S1: Welcome to KPBS roundtable. I'm Andrew Bracken.

S2: I think about , obviously people going to work , people picking up their kids , even children. Imagine finishing school , sitting in a car two , three hours and then getting home.

S1: Longer border wait times. They're impacting people's quality of life , but also the greater economy of the San Diego Tijuana border region. Then , as a result of KPBS reporting , Congress is looking into the practices of a local credit union and their use of overdraft fees on their military members. That , plus the weekly roundup of other stories we've been watching. That's all ahead on KPBS roundtable. Border wait times across the San Diego Tijuana region are up. The longer wait times are impacting people's quality of life , their pocketbooks , but they're also having big impacts on the regional economy. All this comes after a difficult few years for border communities still recovering from pandemic era border closures. So what's behind the recent increase in border wait times and what's happening to address them ? I'm joined now by Wendy Fry. She covers the border for Calmatters. Wendy , welcome to roundtable.

S3: Hi , Andrew. Thanks for having me.

S1: And Gustavo Solis is back with us. He's KPBS investigative border reporter. Hey , Gustavo. Hello. Great to have you both here.

S3: There could be a multiple factors all happening at once. You know , maybe more people moving south of the border to escape the cost of living increases in San Diego. Also , the staffing at CBP could be fluctuating as they kind of shift resources to deal with different things going on at the border. But the thing that is very clear is that the border wait times are very , very bad and , um , pretty hard to to get through on the day to day for people who cross every single day back and forth for work or other school. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. And in some of your recent reporting , you mentioned , you know , you document wait times as long as six hours. At one point in December. How much have they increased over the last year ? Several months.

S3: I mean , the only thing I think what is hard about it is because there's so many people that cross day to day , 150,000 a day. It's hard to get enough of a sample size to really say to see a trend. You know , you hear , of course you're going to hear about the worst times , right ? You're not going to hear about the times when , hey , everything went smoothly and I crossed right. So I think it's hard to get enough of a of a sample size to say for sure what the average time was a year ago , what it is two years ago. But I mean , it's definitely noticeable for somebody who's who. It's part of their day to day life. Gustavo.

S1: Gustavo. I mean , have you noticed or heard about changes in border wait times over the last , you know , year or so ? Oh for. Sure.

S2: Sure. I mean , everyone who covers this space and lives in this space has heard about this. And actually , last year we did a story about southbound wait times , which are rare. This is people trying to get into Mexico , and we do have some data on that , actually. I remember talking to a group that does an analytics and they could scientifically measure , uh , rush hour time , right. And before like five , ten years ago , everybody knew Friday evenings. Right. Friday evenings. You had to get to TJ earlier. If not , you're going to wait 2 or 3 hours. And slowly over time , it's been a thing that's just on Fridays to Thursdays to Wednesdays to Tuesdays. And now , I mean , when you might be able to speak to this , but if you're trying to get back into Tijuana and you're crossing at four or 5 or 6 , you're going to be waiting.

S3: Yes , you're definitely going to be waiting for some amount of time , maybe one two hours on the weekdays , maybe not that bad , but you definitely want to get down there as early as you can. You know , you want to head southbound as early in the day as you can because if , like Gustavo said , if it's past 4 or 5 , forget about it , man.

S2: I think it's important to note it impacts so many people. Right. Think about obviously people going to work , people picking up their kids , even children. Imagine finishing school , sitting in a car for 2 or 3 hours and then getting home , like having the energy to do your homework and things like that. Uh , in terms of workers , I mean , the workforce is ridiculous. Think of people who work in hotels , restaurants , uh , nurses , dental assistants , uh , schools , like any walk of life construction workers. I know there's a ton of construction workers who live in Tijuana and work in San Diego. Military personnel , military.

S3: Personnel , a lot of military in Baja.

S2: Yeah , teachers. I mean , it crosses so many intersections , uh , socioeconomic statuses.

S1: And so we're seeing increased border times going northbound. But you also mentioned the increased times going south. That's been a change.

S3: And it can really impact your day to day life. Like to give you an example today , this morning I'm up at 330 in the morning to come up here. I had another story to do , not just for this , but I had another story to do. So I'm up at 330 in the morning to get in the line to cross , and then when it's time to go home , you know , as we said , it's going to be afternoon , it's going to be rush hour. So there's going to be a potential 1 to 2 hour wait. So that puts your day like the time that you're , you know , out and about through the day right at a longer like you.

S1: Said , if you need to make it to school on time , whatever. I mean , that just puts you back. Yeah. Your whole day's impacted. The big question here is why are these wait times increasing ? What's behind it ? I think you both have mentioned issues of affordability in the region , but talk more about that.

S2: Yeah , I think like Wendy said in the beginning , there's no one thing. Right. It is more people living down there. It is Tijuana's failure to address infrastructure issues. I mean , if you look at the the southbound right , you go the I what is it , 805 and the five merge into one. And slowly the lanes get reduced so that when you're actually in Tijuana , you go from what , ten lanes in the US to two in Tijuana. So that's just a physical bottleneck that infrastructure doesn't address. But I think for me , the most interesting one and one of the most impactful ones is housing affordability , right ? This ties directly to it. So many people are priced out of San Diego. We've covered this extensively , uh , and moving to Tijuana. And I mean , just the math , it doesn't add up. Like before I came here , I took some notes , but , um , a and I average median income in San Diego. For a family for 120,000 right after taxes. That's 105,000. Uh , rent burden means that you're paying 30% of your income on rent. So 30% of 150,000 , roughly is 31,000 , which leaves you for 2600 a month for your rent for a family of four. Looking at Zillow average , two bedrooms are going for 3200. The math just doesn't add up. There is something broken about San Diego housing right now where the average most people. Right. The median half of us cannot afford to live here without being rent burdened.


S3: I was living in an apartment , and it was one of these big corporate landlords. And the rent increase from year to year , it's like you can either move , you know , or you're going to pay 300 , 400 more every single year that you live there. So it got up to where they wanted to charge 3300 for a one bedroom apartment. And I was like , I can't do it , you know ? Um , so yes , it is that and it's happening so much. There's so many U.S. citizens moving to Tijuana to live and and escape that rental situation that is actually driving up the rents , pricing out , almost pricing out Tijuana residents. So it's a regional issue that's being affected. Everybody on both sides of the border.

S2: Yeah , Tijuana is one of the most expensive cities in Mexico. Now , I have family in Mexico City who pay less in rent than than I have relatives. We pay in Tijuana , which is kind of wild. Wow , that is wild.

S3: That's it is ? Yeah. It has just become one of the most expensive cities to live in Mexico.

S1: And , you know , we know there's a an election , a big election coming up in Mexico later in the year in the United States. But in Mexico it's next month and they're choosing a new president. Um , how is that playing out ? I mean , are you hearing , you know , these issues come up talking to voters in and around Baja ? Um , you know , when it comes to affordability , I mean , also , you brought up issues of just like , is Tijuana able to sustain this level of growth they're experiencing , right ? Yeah.

S2: So there's a difference , right , between the presidential election and the local elections. So the mayor , you know , the mayoral election is also happening in Tijuana. And that's going to be a big one when it comes to national politics in Mexico. Or unfortunately , the sphere of influence is Mexico City. Right. And historically , the further you are away from Mexico City , the the less attention you get paid to , which is kind of similar in the US side , right ? People in Washington DC don't really think of the issues along the border unless there's migration and they can politicize it. But generally speaking , folks in Washington , DC and folks in Mexico City , Tijuana , San Diego is an afterthought. Uh , there is some talk about , you know , strengthening the US Mexico relationship , all in the context of increasing bilateral trade , which is measured in the billions here in San Diego. Um , there's some talk about expanding infrastructure projects. You know , the new O type border crossing , um , expanding some roadways in Tijuana. But those are projects that are kind of already ongoing in terms of your average voter. They care about security. In Mexico , safety is a big thing. Extortion has become a big thing for business owners. Uh , drug trafficking , those are kind of the main issues and things like , you know , infrastructure improvements to decrease border wait times. Not really top of the list at the national level , but I don't know , Wendy , you might be able to talk about the local level.

S3: I haven't seen it come up so much in the campaigns or the elections , but late I think it was late 2023. President Lopez Obrador came down to Tijuana to do a news conference , and one of the local reporters , Yolanda morales , told him about this issue of the South bound wait times and how people were waiting two three. And he didn't get it. At first he was like , yeah , there's been wait , you know , the border ? You wait , that's it. And then no , it's southbound. It's students coming home to Mexico that are waiting. And so for a couple of days , in very typical Mexico fashion , for a couple days , the issue got resolved. And and they moved some of these big X-ray machines that they have down there. And , and the flow of the lanes was going much faster. And then I think after the media reports and after the social media of this issue has been resolved , it went right back to the normal , longer , longer wait times.

S2: So it's back to normal. I remember that press conference and the president said specifically , give me until the end of the year. And we're we're in May now. And and it was last year. This was like last December. So basically give me until the end of 2023.

S3: The deadlines passed.

S2: We're almost halfway through 2024 and it's worse than ever. So that might tell you what Mexico City thinks about this issue. Right.

S1: So that's the Mexican side. What about on the American side ? I mean , there are staffing issues that have been pointed to about some of , you know , the slow moving traffic there. What are you hearing there , Wendy ? Right.

S3: So and that issue , I'm not hearing directly as , as much directly from Customs and Border Protection , but more from the business leaders who have had meetings with CBP. But what ? Um , for example , Joaquin Lukin with the Smart Border Coalition and Jason Wells with the San Jose Drow Chamber of Commerce organization , say that CBP tells them that they are fully staffed , but when they go look at the numbers , it looks like the way that they measure fully staffed is not enough officers to open up all 64 booths at the same time. And so the issue that they are trying to express to Washington is that how they define fully staffed is maybe what needs to change. But I have heard from CBP that they've had to shift resources to deal with irregular migration or other things , checking for fentanyl coming into the country. And so that's why sometimes they have less officers there than they should.

S1: And you write that , you know , even a small increase in border wait times can have a pretty sizable impact on the greater economy. Can you talk more about that ? Right.

S3: So that's research. There's been a lot of research by different organizations. I think the one in the article is from the Atlantic Council , and they measured just a ten minute reduction in border wait times. Um , it's 26 million , I think , for cargo for trade. Right. And then also it would be like 5 million , 6 million in extra people coming northbound because the wait times are tolerable and buying extra things. So if you think about that , just ten minutes and then you think about how much extra 2 hours or 3 hours might impact that , we're talking hundreds of millions of dollars being lost. And also , you know , you think maybe like people who don't cross the border daily might not care so much about this issue , but taxpayers are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the infrastructure at the border to to create an efficient border so that we can have trade with Mexico. Right. And that affects the economy across the entire country. So one of the stats I think I saw in the research is one out of every 29 jobs in the United States is supported or a direct result of trade between US and Mexico. So it affects our overall economy across the entire nation.

S1: And Gustavo , you make the point that even in addition to the economic impacts , there's also a real environmental impact that we should be considering here.

S2: I mean , if you look at , um , air quality , some of the worst in San Diego is San Isidro , and that's not shocking. Sandy cedars were all those cars are idling for hours and hours and hours , and it contributes to high asthma rates in those communities. So yeah , there's obviously the economic impact. But the health impact I think doesn't get the attention that it really deserves. It's kind of been normalized now , almost like like cross-border sewage is kind of becoming normalized now. Right ? You go to a certain parts of Imperial Beach where I used to live. It smells like sewage in the morning and at night , depending on which way the wind is flowing and people are just like , yeah , it is what it is now , you know , and it shouldn't be. There's a lot of good people , um , trying to raise awareness for this issue. I know that the mayor of Imperial Beach and several grassroots organizations , and in Imperial Beach and Coronado , even now in Tijuana , they have them , but they're trying to not even sound the alarm because everyone knows it's happening , but also like , hey , don't forget us , right ? Don't , don't , don't abandon us. We're dealing with this every day. Our children are suffering. Your coworkers are suffering. Your neighbors are suffering. And I mean , at least until now , historically , it's just kind of fallen on deaf ears. Unfortunately.

S3: It seems like there's almost this attitude , like there's nothing that can be done about it or we can't , we can't fix it. And when you think about it as a region , we've done great things. You know , we've done the cross-border express that's not anywhere else in the world. We've done great things to address issues in this cross border region. So I do think that if everybody put their will and their minds behind , coming up with some solutions , that some could be.

S1: Well , that's a good example. I mean , the Cross Border Express , as I understand it , has been pretty resounding success. Um , it's it allows people to fly out of Tijuana but have a kind of more streamlined , you know , entrance into Mexico. It's almost like a bus station on the US side is how I describe it.

S2: Oh , yeah , they're like , they're printing money. I mean , that was a public private partnership. And the people that invested in that are making a lot of money. And it's even taken some , uh , business out of San Diego International Airport. I know people from Orange County in Los Angeles that will drive down to the border to fly out of Tijuana if they're going anywhere in Mexico. Um , there's other efforts they're trying to do with , like a , you know , ferry from Rosarito to San Diego and things like that , and even expanding the trolley into Tijuana. There's a lot of great ideas , interesting solutions , people thinking outside the box. But I think , like Wendy said , we need buy in from everybody , right ? It can't just be Tijuana. It can't just be San Diego. It can't just be California or California. It needs to be everyone , right ? Local , state and federal government on both sides of the country working together to do this. Unfortunately , it's a lot of bureaucracy with all those different governments.

S1: You're listening to KPBS roundtable. I'm Andrew Bracken. Today. We're talking about border wait times , how they're impacting the San Diego Tijuana border region. I'm speaking with Wendy Frye from Calmatters , along with KPBS , Gustavo Solis.

S3: So for work , school , to go to the doctor , those kind of necessities. And so businesses , um , like like El Rincon that I interviewed for this story and the perfume store , these businesses depend on people walking by to come into their store and make purchases. And so their sales have been heavily impacted. Gustavo.

S1: Gustavo. So for these businesses along the border in , you know , areas like San Isidro , these impacts come not long after the region saw a pretty big economic downturn during the pandemic. And , you know , some of the closures that went on there.

S2: I mean , I forget what the record was. It was 200 or more than 200 businesses closed permanently in San Isidro. Like like Wendy said , because you have kind of old San Jose , throw a new San Jose , throw the newest the outlet malls. Um , and the old one is the stores that Wendy visited that rely mostly on , on , you know , foot traffic crossings. Um , but they were both just really , really decimated when people , you know , if you remember , at the start of the pandemic , you had there were a lot of restrictions on who could cross and when and for how long. And that really gutted that community. And I don't think they've rebounded. I mean , I haven't you've talked to Jason Wells more recently than I have , but when I spoke to him last year , 2023 , he said they were still in kind of a pandemic era place and that they hadn't recovered from the pandemic. And when we think of the pandemic , we mostly think of it as something that's in the past tense. But in San Ysidro , no , I mean , even to this day , there are , um , closures in the PED West pedestrian crossing where people can't. It used to be open 24 hours a day. You could cross both ways , but now they have this thing where you can only cross northbound in the morning , and you can only go southbound in the evening , and it disrupts the flow , right ? It disrupts that community and they are feeling the brunt of it. I know Jason Wells is really upset with the city of San Diego , the county of San Diego , for not supporting them enough. Uh , his line that that he always says that has stuck with me. So like , yeah , San Isidro is a part of San Diego , the forgotten part , which kind of sums up how they feel down there.

S3: Yeah , I think you can really see that too. Walking around down there , you can see and feel that it's still a struggle. It people have not come out of it. And , um , you know , devastating to families that depend on those small businesses. Right. So , um , also with the PED West , the reason why that sort of impacts businesses a lot , too , is because they're constantly changing the times , or they're opening in at closing it or , you know , and so people don't really know when is it going to be open , when is it not going to be open. And so even though it's reopened , not as many people are going over there anymore. You can't depend on it. And and they will close it if they have to , if they have , um , a large number of people that they're processing , they'll close it. And so you just don't go there because you don't know when or if you're going to be able to get across there.

S2: And it's so sad because we were talking about infrastructure before. Right. PED West is not an old border crossing , and we spent millions and millions of dollars to build it. And we're at a point where we're we're investing so much in this infrastructure , but we don't have the people. Like Wendy was saying , we don't have enough people to open up all the lanes. And when we don't have staff to keep the pedestrian crossing open 24 hours a day , that that's just it's sad. It's a bad look for the US. If you're building all this and not even using it to the full potential. And it does raise questions about new infrastructure , right ? Like the Otay East , are we going to have enough people for that , or are we going to spend billions of dollars on something that's not really going to be fully functional and.

S3: Not have the intended impact that it's supposed to ? Right. They're investing this money to have the economic benefit of the increase in trade. But if they do that and the staffing isn't there , it's not going to have the impact that they're expecting.

S1: It's a lot of interesting insight into that. So thank you both for joining us. I've been speaking with Calmatters border reporter Wendy Frei , along with KPBS. Gustavo Solis , thanks for being here.

S3: Thank you , thank you.

S1: When roundtable returns. KPBS reporting on a local credit unions use of overdraft fees leads to a congressional investigation.

S4: It really leaned in hard , and these members of Congress made clear that they strongly disapprove of what front wave was doing here.

S1: That's coming up next on roundtable. Welcome back to KPBS roundtable. I'm Andrew Bracken. When recruits come through boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego , many are automatically enrolled into Front Wave Credit Union. Following KPBS reporting , a congressional investigation is now underway into the millions of dollars of fees front wave collects from young Marines in overdraft fees. Here to tell us more , I'm joined now by KPBS investigative reporter Scott Rod. Hey , Scott.

S4: Hey , Andrew.

S1: So you're reporting , you know , it's talked about how the credit union has an exclusive agreement with the Marine Corps.

S4: 25 years. And the way it works is when recruits come to MCD , San Diego. And I'll note half of the country's recruits come to MCD. So basically , everyone west of the Mississippi comes to San Diego for marine boot camp. And that's anywhere from roughly 15 to 20,000 , sometimes 20,000 plus recruits every year. So they come through , you know , they're getting processed , they're getting assigned a bunk. They're basically told everything from where they where they sleep , what they eat , what to do throughout the entire day. And part of that process early on , they are instructed how they are supposed to process their direct deposits , how they get paid because they are paid as recruits. And what we found in our reporting is that they're systemically funneled into Front Wave Credit union. This is a regional credit union , and they're told we're going to send your direct deposit here. We're opening up a membership for you there. And that's where your money will go. You know , the Marines have said , you know , recruits can have the direct deposit sent where they would like if they come in prepared , if they come in with account information , and that way they can set it up. We heard from our reporting that that really wasn't the case. We'd heard from former employees , from Marines , that these recruits were instructed , you know , this is where you're going to have your direct deposit sent. And a lot of them , you know , stick with this for years afterwards. You know , there's something called the default , the power of the default when you're instructed or given a bank account , for example , oftentimes you'll stick with it just because it's the one that you have , and that's where your paycheck is going. So that's how this arrangement works. There's a certain convenience from the marine side where they're able to send direct deposits to this one place. And for front wave , it works out because they're guaranteed tens of thousands of new members every year. I mean , that is quite a boon for a regional credit union , right.

S1: And , you know , you mentioned the number of recruits coming , coming through that are involved here. I imagine also , a lot of them are fairly young , late teens , early 20s when , I mean , I don't know about you , but my financial acuity was not at its peak at that point in my life. Right ? Absolutely.

S4: So some of these recruits are as young as 17 , 18 years old. Many of them are away from home for the first time. They're away from their family , from their social network , from the people who kind of help them navigate the world. So this was also something we found in our reporting was , you know , when you go off to boot camp , um , you know , you're really handing yourselves over to greater powers in a certain way to instruct you what to do on the financial side of things. A lot of Marines lack , like you said , that financial literacy , that financial acuity. I will say the Marines have told us that they do have financial literacy classes during boot camp. Front wave has to have has told us that they make sure that , you know , they have financial literacy courses built into the boot camp. It's still unclear how rigorous they are , you know , to what extent these are baked into the process. We try to get more information on that , and we really weren't given much , but they have said that. So I'll note that. But yeah , these are very young kids that are coming through boot camp.


S4: So for the last , you know , five , six years , we found looking through financial records that front wave relied on overdraft fees for about 12% of its overall revenue. So , I mean , for any business , 12% of your revenue , that's an important piece. But especially in a in a business , in an industry where margins can be pretty thin. So we found not only does it make up about 12% of their revenue , overdrafts also allow them to be profitable. So if you take away overdraft fees uh , for many years , over the last 5 or 6 years , most of those years , they easily could have lost money without these overdraft fees. So it's a very important piece of their revenue stream.

S1: You spoke with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren , one of the senators who helped launch this investigation into Front Wave's practices. She also sits on both the Senate Banking and Armed Services committees. He. Here's a little of what she told you.

S5: And this is just one more example of a financial institution honing in on young , vulnerable service members.


S4: There was a review potentially happening , an investigation. So I was hearing rumors , and then I had been contacted by a staffer in Congress who gave me a heads up and said , hey , this thing is coming. We wanted to let you know. And when I got a copy of the letter , it was pretty remarkable. This was a letter that did not mince words. It said , you know , used words like unconscionable and exploitative to describe front wave's overdraft practices. It really leaned in hard. And these members of Congress made clear that they strongly disapprove of what front wave was doing here with these overdraft fees , with the way that they are automatic or systematically enrolling these Marines and then collecting millions of dollars from them in overdraft fees.

S1: And we should note you can read the full letter on KPBS. Org as part of your reporting there. So we mentioned Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. What other Congress members are involved in this investigation ? Well , you.

S4: Have some pretty notable recognizable names that have signed on to this letter. You have Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders , you have Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal , new Jersey Senator Cory Booker , as well as a number of others. It's bipartisan. You have Ohio Senator JD Vance who signed on to it. You also have the San Diego congresswoman , Sarah Jacobs , who signed on to it. So a pretty long list and a list of notable household names in Congress.


S4: They are looking to do that. The letter includes over over a dozen questions that they're looking to get answered in terms of how front wave operates in the way that they're collecting money from from Marines. But she made clear to me that their goal doesn't end there. They're looking to see whether or not Front Wave's practices are lawful. And she told me if they are lawful , they want to go to regulators and ask them how is it lawful and what changes might happen in order to try to protect Marines from having millions of dollars collected for them in overdraft fees ? So Senator Warren made clear to me that they're looking to make change. It's just a matter of what what levers they can pull and what avenues they have to try to make that change.

S1: So front wave. They declined an interview regarding this investigation. But you did interview Front Wave CEO earlier in your reporting.

S4: And , you know , this was some months ago before our initial investigation came out , and he stood by the overdraft program that front wave has. He said , look , sometimes at the end of the month , you run out of money. And he laid out basically the alternative of if you don't have money and you can't buy your essentials. Well , without an overdraft program , you know , you're stuck without gas or groceries. And he said this program allows people to buy those essentials to make ends meet. The word he used his use as a bridge right to between paychecks. If you've run out of money in order to get the things you need , he called it a service there. They're overdraft fees are $20 a pop , which I will note is less than what many other banks and credit unions charge. But it is worth noting that you can get up to five per day , so it can really add up. But the CEO of Front Wave , Bill Bernie , stood by this program and said , look , these overdrafts , they are a benefit. They are a service for our members. And he noted that people do , you know , sign up. They do consent to be in this program when they become a member.

S1: And you also spoke to Marines in your reporting about front wave.

S4: Many of them went on to bigger credit unions , more widely established national credit unions such as Navy Fed. Many of them said that they weren't happy with the services provided by front Wave. They some of them complained about some of the fees or some of the customer service issues they experienced. I did speak with some who have stuck with Front Wave and said that they were happy with their services , but many that I spoke to said that they had moved on and the ones who had gotten overdraft fees expressed frustration , saying , you know , I feel like I'm being set up here to pay fees. Many of them said I would rather just have been told I was over drafting , you know , in that case , I would have switched to another. Hard. I maybe would have paid in cash. They felt like it was a way to try to extract money revenue from them in a way that was unnecessary. And I did speak with some Marines who who had talked about wanting to use their own existing account when they went to boot camp , but weren't able to. We're instructed by folks at the Marines that you have to use front wave when you come through boot camp.

S1: So , Scott , you're still looking for Marines to speak about their experience with front wave.

S4: I'm continuing my reporting on this , and the best way to contact me is my email. That's s Rod Schroeder at KPBS morgue and open to speaking with anyone who has an experience to share on this.

S1: Well , we really appreciate you talking more about the latest here , and I'm sure we'll be hearing more. I mean , it's an example of of how great local reporting can really have impact here. Scott Rod is an investigative reporter with KPBS news , as well as a frequent roundtable host. Scott , thanks so much for being here. Well , Andrew.

S4: Thanks so much for having me on.

S1: When we come back , it's time for our weekly roundtable roundup. This time with a twist. Stay tuned. Roundtable's back in less than two minutes. You're listening to KPBS roundtable , I'm Andrew Bracken. It's time now for our weekly roundup of top stories. And joining me again for that is KPBS web producer Laura McCaffrey. Hey , Laura.

S6: Hey , Andrew.

S1: So it sounds like we're going to try something a little new this time.

S6: I'm going to call this the Roundup quiz edition. So here's how it works. Like our previous roundup segments , I'll share a story that's been in the headlines , and I'll give you some context and then ask you some trivia about this story. And don't worry , it's multiple choice. It'll be a little bit easier. Yeah.

S1: And I did Wordle earlier today , so I'm ready. I think my mind's working. I'm ready to. Go.

S6: Go. All right , well , let's see what you got. Our first story is about the pair of giant pandas that will soon make the journey from China to the San Diego Zoo. Right.

S1: Right. Very exciting. Yes.

S6: So the pandas are part of an ongoing conservation partnership between the two nations. And the San Diego Zoo's caretakers recently visited China to meet the giant pandas ahead of the pandas trip , and they took some photos. There's the photo drop this week. The exact date for the pandas arrival is not set , but it could be as soon as the summertime.

S1: It's great. Yeah , and I know we've talked about this earlier on roundup kind of some of the developments there. And , you know , the San Diego Zoo being mentioned by the Chinese president on his visit to California.

S6: Yeah , that's a big deal.

S1: Yeah , it's a very big deal. Yeah.

S6: Yeah. I mean , we are world famous. The zoo. That is totally. Yeah. All right. So here's your question. What are the pandas ? Is names a unicorn and sing Bo. Be Shishi and Biyun. See Gao , Gao and Wah. May or Dee , Sandy and Diego.

S1: I wish I could go with the same Santi and Diego , but I'm thinking that's a la McCaffrey one there. Um , I'm going to go with C Gao. Gao and Huami. Are.

S7: Are.

S1: Over one.

S6: You're not starting off very well , Andrew.

S1: No , no , no.

S6: It's actually Yoon Chuan and Singh Bo. So Yoon Chuan is the five year old male , and Singh Bo is the four year old female. And they described Singh Bo in kind of a funny way. They said she was a gentle and witty introvert with a sweet round face and big ears.

S1: Man , I just I mean , are they going to have a webcam up ? I know Panda videos just generally are a great way to just improve anybody's day just seeing them. There's a series of them where they're kind of like almost attacking the zookeepers that I always enjoy seeing.

S6: Oh , wow. Violent.

S1: And by attacking they just kind of hug. But it's very cute.

S6: Gentle violence. Yeah. Um , yeah. So the goal for the pandas is basically for them to procreate and make more panda babies for conservation purposes. Pandas are still endangered. Um , they're a vulnerable status.

S1: And , you know , we've talked about this. There's also the sort of international relations part of it between the United States and China. Um , but it just sounds like it's going to be a boon for San Diego and for those going to the zoo and lovers of pandas.

S6: Oh , yeah. I mean , I'm excited. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. Same.

S6: All right , shall we move on to the next question ? Yeah , a bit of a warm up.

S1: I'm more nervous now , so. Okay.

S6: All right. So this one is about music. The 2024 is San Diego Music Award where this week they were on Tuesday at the usual venue , Humphreys Concert by the Bay. And the whole purpose of the award show is to honor local musicians , everything from rock bands to rap to jazz and local artists perform during the ceremony. It's quite cool. Um , and it's been going on for a while. It was started in 1991 by Kevin Hellman , former publisher of City Beat , which I used to write for. R.I.P um and to be considered artists have to submit their material to be nominated.

S1: And I think they raise money for the music education part of. It.

S6: It. Right ? Yeah. They provide , um , guitars to schools because music education is very important for kids. I mean , it's surprisingly teaches you about math , you know. Yeah. For for I.

S1: Play drums and that's like , oh , that.

S6: Is , that.

S1: Is I'm not good at math , but the only math I know is probably from that. Yeah. Time signatures.

S6: Yeah yeah yeah. Drums are hard. Well all right so here's the question. Who won artist of the year. Is it a Stevie Salas B Johnny Tar. See the Sacred Souls or D the suede grenades ? I like that name.

S1: I love that name too. I'm going with C though. The sacred souls.

S7: Ding ding ding. Oh , I got one.

S1: I swear I didn't cheat.

S6: You are correct. They're local San Diegans , and they're , uh , they're doing very well , which is super awesome for a local artist. Yeah , they were on NPR's Tiny Desk. Oh , cool.

S1: Yeah , you check that out.

S6: Yes , but they play sort of like soul music and , um , mixed with , like , oldies. So sort of like American soul , Chicano music. So how about we listen to a little bit of these sacred souls ? Yes. All right , I'm gonna pull up this song I like from them , um , that are arts producer editor Julia Dixon Evans and her sort of roundup of the ceremony. She included some songs for the artists. Um , and this is one she included. You can listen to all the rest of them on KPBS. Org. So this is running away by these sacred souls.


UU: They tried his world , but just the season. And now he's got a good girl. She wants to stay. But he's gotta go. For his own reasons.

S6: Very cool. So good.

S1: Yeah , that sounds good. Any. Do I have any more questions or am I done ? What do we have next ? Oh.

S6: Let's give you two more questions okay. How about that. All right. So this one is about Hillcrest and the 163 freeway. So the San Diego City Planning Department is preparing to rezone Hillcrest for a lot more high density housing. And some of the neighborhood want to build a park over the 163 freeway to add more green space , which makes sense for buildings , perhaps less green space. Um , and this is something that the Hillcrest Business Association has discussed a decade ago , but it just never went anywhere. These types of parks are very difficult to build , as you can imagine. So , um , let's put our urban planning hats on. There's a special term for this type of structure built over freeway. Is it a clear zone ? B freeway lid c Park Place. D freeway onramp.

S1: Um , I'm fairly certain of this because I remember , you know , we've talked with Andrew Bowen about some of these plans before. I think it's B freeway lid.

S7: Ding ding ding.

S6: Yes okay. Yes , he did it. I have never heard of a freeway lid until this story. And I like the idea. I like the idea. There's there's a similar park in San Diego already. Um , to to park in City Heights , um , built over the 15. And there's some other cities that have similar concepts. And it's not only park , some of them have like convention centers over freeways. Um , so I got to find a question for you. Okay.

S1: Let's go. Yeah.

S6: Yes. So so the election is coming up June 2nd , and , uh , KPBS will be hosting a discussion based event , and we don't know when exactly. That'll be probably the end of the month. Um , and we're soliciting questions for from our audience about the election. And you can submit yours at KPBS. Org. Um , it'll be a bilingual event , so it'll be in Spanish and English. Um , so here's the question for you , Andrew. There's something historical about this election. Is it a one of the candidates isn't Mexican ? B it's in June instead of November. C the election will be on a Sunday. D the voters will likely elect a woman for president.

S1: I'm going to go with D. Voters will likely elect a woman. Yes.

S6: That's right. Yes. So there are three candidates for president. But from what I hear from some of our , um , folks at the station that are a little bit more familiar with the election , two of the candidates are a woman , and then there's a man , but he does not stand a chance , apparently.

S1: So it's between. Yeah , the two yeses.

S6: Between the two women , apparently.

S1: Well , it's interesting , and we , you know , we heard a little bit about it earlier , speaking with Gustavo and Wendy Frei about the wait times and kind of some of the issues that are coming up with the election around what's happening in Tijuana and their region around it. I do think it's interesting because the outgoing president , Amlo , Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador , is still very popular. You know , he's finishing his term and I think he's not going to be involved in politics. They they do turn out. But he still seems , you know , a very quite popular figure as I understand it. So it'll be interesting to see. Um , and yeah , hopefully we can talk more about the event once the details are there.

S7: Oh yes. Yeah , we're.

S6: Blasting that out , making sure you all are there.

S1: I wanted to finish off with this Saturday is the 101st birthday of one Tom Fitzmaurice. He's a World War two veteran living at Saint Paul's Manor in downtown San Diego. Last month , KPBS Midday Edition spoke with him and we wanted to share some of what he said ahead of his 101st birthday.

S9: So I still have four living children whom I see every weekend. Uh , they are very generous in that they buy me a bagel and coffee , um , in the hopes that over time , they'll be able to repay me for their college educations. Uh , I try to contribute a little humor. Not always welcome , but , you know , I mean , I , I enjoy laughing at myself , and I. I like to think now that I'm contributing , you know , to the dull days of my fellow residents here , I don't think them up. They just come out of that that Irish humor. I tell you what , one of my current , uh , humorous comments is my about my eventual demise. I have recognized the fact that my end is pretty coming up pretty quickly. And I like to think I'm no longer fearful of what's going to happen. You know , in younger years , people ignore the fact that that they're mortal. And then you go through a war and , you know , day in and day out that you are damn mortal. And then later on , you start thinking , oh , I'm , you know , I'm going to last forever. And you become fearful of your eventual demise. And now I'm at a stage where I'm not looking forward to it. I don't really want to think about the alternative , but I think that I can accept it when it happens again.

S1: That was Tom Fitzmaurice , who turns 101 years old on Saturday. So happy birthday , Tom.

S7: Happy birthday.

S1: Laura McCaffrey is a web producer with KPBS news. Laura. Thanks , as always , for being here.

S6: Thanks for having me.

S1: That'll do it for the KPBS roundtable this week. Thanks so much for being here. We'd love to hear from you. You can email us at roundtable at , or leave us a message at (619) 452-0228. You can listen to our show anytime as a podcast. KPBS roundtable airs on KPBS FM at noon on Fridays again Sundays at 6 a.m.. Roundtable's technical producers are Brandon Truffaut , Ben Read , Lusk , and Adrian Villalobos. This show was produced by Lara McCaffrey and me , Andrew Bracken. Brooke Ruth is roundtable senior producer. I'm Andrew Bracken. Thanks so much for listening. Have a great weekend.

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Bridge view of the San Ysidro border as vehicles are in line to cross into San Diego, May 14, 2021.
Tania Thorne
Bridge view of the San Ysidro border as vehicles are in line to cross into San Diego, May 14, 2021.

Wait times at the San Diego-Tijuana border are impacting people’s quality of life and the regional economy. This comes after many border communities are still recovering from pandemic-era closures.

Also, a Congressional investigation is now underway into the millions of dollars in fees Frontwave Credit Union collects from marines in overdraft fees.

Plus, we hear about other stories from this week in the roundup.