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The rise of incivility in San Diego politics

 July 5, 2024 at 3:24 PM PDT

S1: Welcome to KPBS roundtable , I'm Scott Rodd. Civility in political discourse has been on the decline in recent years , and San Diego County is no exception.

S2: And 2021 was really concerning to see just how sharply people's attitudes changed and how they would encourage each other , almost to say really rude and really offensive things in public.

S1: A months long KPBS investigation dug into the problem , which emerged as the Covid 19 pandemic took hold. And wildfire season is here. We discuss what Chula Vista is doing to mitigate its exposure to fire risk. Plus , we dive into other stories from this week in the roundup that's just ahead on KPBS roundtable. Local elected officials are on the front lines of governing. They're tasked with figuring out how to boost housing construction , address our growing homelessness crisis , shape local transportation , and mitigate climate change , among many other responsibilities. These local officials are also on the front lines of public discourse , and the feedback from some members of the public is growing increasingly profane and threatening. A months long investigation from KPBS examined the unraveling civic discourse happening at the local level. The reporters used San Diego County Board of Supervisor meetings to measure the rapid rise of incivility. He with me to discuss this ambitious , revealing project is KPBS investigative reporter Amita Sharma. Amethi. Thanks for joining roundtable. It's good to.

S3: Be here , Scott.

S1: And investigative student assistant Katerina Portela. Welcome , Katerina.

S2: Thank you. Scott.

S1: Let's start with a simple question. Amethyst.

S3: I'll try to be as concise as possible. So soon after the lockdown started. we in the newsroom started hearing fellow reporters talk about how vicious these supervisors meetings had become. They had gone online. Members of the public seemed upset because the lockdown was going on , and they were upset that , look , schools were closed , businesses were closing , and people had real restrictions. Then when the vaccine mandates came down , they really got mad. So while they were saying vicious stuff before that , things really started to heat up then. And we heard that this man , who we now know is a guy by the name of Jason Robo , called the county public health officer , Doctor Wilma Wooten , who is Black Aunt Jemima. And that stopped me dead in my tracks. That was the kind of comment where it just does not happen. There is so much social condemnation , so much social disdain for that kind of thing , the fact that it was allowed to take place , I mean , the supervisors did push back , but I think I remember a time where members of the public would have stood up and said , not so fast , stop right there. So I put that in the corner of my mind. Then , late last year , investigative reporting editor Claire Trager came to my desk and said , hey , did you hear what happened at the supervisors meeting last night ? And she she said that they were supervisors , had gathered they had scheduled a forum to talk about the Truth Act , which deals with undocumented migrants incarcerated and dealings with immigration officials. So that was scheduled , but it got shut down because of these public commenters , the real frequent ones who've got a tendency to yell and shout and really , at times , Scuttle County business. And that's when we brought Katerina in and discuss this also with our investigative reporting editor David Washburn said , look , if we're going to do this , we're going to do it as a case study. Katrina came in and viewed months of these meetings , months spanning years. And I and I do want to say , Scott , it's one thing to say , man , oh man , you should have heard what was said. You you should have seen this in person. It's quite another to actually be there when like when I went there or when I watched those meetings to to see the body language , to see the expressions on the faces of the speakers was really quite something. And here's a sample of what Katarina watched what I watched.

S4: What are you doing to actually stop human trafficking ? Nothing , because you are a part of it. Maybe $20,000 to continue coordinated vaccine clinics. I'd like to call those murder or genocide clinics your felons. I mean , you will be , but , like , you should be taken to get Mo Vargas.

S5: I can't wait for your arteries to clog. They're not doing it fast enough. And , Nathan , you should kill yourself. I don't know where you are. You didn't give a.

S6: Shit about what we have to say. You guys are in big trouble because you have a power trip issue. Do you like being a.

S1: You know , these aren't just. You may hear one offs here and there and it might stop you for a minute , but when you hear them successively and especially the laughter sometimes in the background , it really does sink in just how low the discourse has gotten and how troubling that is. Katrina , I want to go to you. I know that you had reviewed many hours of the footage from hearings. Before we jump into that , I just want to get your thoughts on when you were asked to join this project. What were your thoughts.

S2: When they first came to me about the project ? I think it was originally going to be shorter term. I , I remember David Washburn , one of my editors , saying , uh , here's three months in 2023 and watch the meetings in these three months and then report back. And I think , I think everyone was just surprised by how much I ended up coming back with that. They were like , they were thinking , we need to go back and we need to see more of this and see , is this just 2023 or is this a reoccurring trend or when did it get this bad ? Really ? Um , and at first it was a little intimidating because there's just so many of these meetings. But I think the process that we ended up creating of a few months out of every year really helped to narrow it down and create more of a sample instead of just like an influx of of randomized meetings. And so it made it a lot more organized. So I think once that that program or that system was set in place , I was a lot more ready to dive into the videos.

S1: I sit next to you and I would periodically look over and almost always you would be tuning in , looking back at a previous supervisor meeting and you reviewed a lot of these , I mean , dozens of hours of footage from over 50 meetings. So it really did sprawl into quite a project. And it looked at meetings going back to 2014 and then again in 2019 , and then in the last several years to see how the discourse has changed over time.

S2: And in 2009 , most of the meetings , there wouldn't even be public comments at all. They would just say nobody's requested a public comment. Let's move into the item. So it was really peaceful. And when people did comment , it was just , this is something I'm concerned about in my neighborhood. But I think when I started to really notice a change and surprisingly , it wasn't in 2020 or it wasn't after 2016 when I originally thought it would be , it was actually in 2021 that it was just almost seemed like a switch. And so it wasn't. Even within the past ten years , I would say it's more so within the last four that we really started to see this drastic change. And 2021 was really concerning , to see just how sharply people's attitudes changed and how they people would encourage each other almost to say really rude and really offensive things in public.

S1: And yet again , you could you could hear that on the clip where people sort of in the background laughing. And I'm sure that wasn't the only time that something like that occurred. One of the things that stood out to me about this project that I really admired is it took this concept of incivility , which can seem a little subjective. It could seem a little amorphous , but it it really dialed in the definition and the different types of incivility you all were looking at and analyze. So you might break that down for us.

S3: And so under the umbrella of incivility , which I made sure that. But the umbrella was pretty darn broad. I mean , it it included the more mild offenses , like using profanity and maybe making some accusations , but it you know , it became more it also included offenses that were far more severe , like direct threats and outbursts that really ended up ending the meetings , or at least pausing the meetings.

S1: And so you're talking about disturbing , disrupting essentially the democratic process , right ? People being able to weigh in on the on the government's business , have their voice heard , and then get a response from their elected leaders. Amita , how would you put this offensive and potentially harmful rhetoric into the historical context of public discourse in California and the US more broadly.

S3: So I want to speak broadly first , and I think this is your most important question. So if you look at the US from a historical perspective , we've certainly had periods of deep turmoil before the years leading up to the Civil War. After the Civil War , I think around the time of the Great Depression , there was a lot of , um , skepticism about our economic system. And then after World War two , there were threats from global totalitarian movements , 1960s and 70s saw riots , political assassinations. Um , we had the resignation of a president in the early 70s , President Nixon. And , you know , these were serious , serious events in California. 15 years ago , there was a truck driver who attempted to drive into the California State Legislature. There have been shootings on the floor of Congress. People have been caned on the floor of Congress.

S1: We're talking years ago , of course , but.

S3: Nevertheless years ago. But now I want to share a little bit of my personal experience. I have covered public government meetings literally for decades , and there's always been a little bit of rudeness. There have been accusations over disputes that had to deal with local issues potholes , um , a contract with a sketchy vendor , um , a housing tract that nobody wanted in their community. The issues were local. What's happening now is just next level. It's so different. I mean , to accuse supervisors of murdering babies because maybe some of them are pro-choice , to accuse them of being involved in human trafficking. That that is much more serious to to say that there's such bad government leaders that they should be they should be punished and sent to Gitmo. There's a huge difference using racist phrases to describe a public health officer. That that again , is is very different. You know , the other part that really strikes me as being very just standing in a category of its own from when I covered these meetings , is that in the past , when people addressed their elected officials , they used reason and logic to make their arguments. Were they perfect ? No. But now there is no reason. There is no logic. It's as if they're there to upset people , to disrupt. And in the past , when there were disagreements , you know , if I , if I disagree with my supervisor from my district over a particular issue. Well , they're my opponent , right ? They're not my enemy today. It sounds like some of these public commenters see the supervisors as their enemies.

S2: And I just wanted to add to that that it's not only that people are targeting the supervisors , but there's also a lot of backlash against fellow commenters. And I spoke to this woman who came in in that trust Act meeting or truth acts. My apologies , but she came in with a group of people , and they wanted to discuss an issue that was important to them , and that affected a lot of the people in that group. But when they went up to speak , they were yelled at by fellow commenters. They were disparaged. And in a more recent meeting , they weren't even able to speak at all because the meeting got cancelled. So there's just a general feeling of hostility in the chambers now , and not even to the soup , only to the supervisors , but to fellow citizens. And it makes it so that people are discouraged from wanting to speak on issues that actually mattered to them. And it just becomes an echo chamber of of hate.

S3: And I just want to interject here. I know that perhaps some people might say , oh , come on , this is democracy. Democracy involves dissenting voices , and I and I and I hear that and I interviewed political scientist Thad Causer from UCSD , and he said something that that really did stay with me. He said , look , this is democracy. Democracy is loud. It is ugly. This is a version of it. We have a system that allows for discussion to be driven by human nature. American democracy is designed to recognize human nature. Men are not angels and that women are not angels. And and he said , save for threats. This is what it looks like.


S3: They trace the genesis to what we're experiencing now , to the election of Barack Obama , this country's first black president. There was a backlash to it. They also said that when President Trump ran for office the first time in 2016 , you know , he he began to make comments that you really didn't hear in political discourse. He made disparaging comments about people of color , about women. Then when he was president and Covid appeared , he really didn't say great things about the vaccine. He did undermine the lockdown. They also said that , look , people are upset about the state of the economy , the high cost of living in California and of course , across the country has really stuck in people's craw. They're struggling to put food on the table. They're struggling to keep a roof over their head. They are upset about the vaccine mandates. They are upset about the business closures during the lockdown. They have lost faith in public institutions. All of this combined has made people angry and in these comments are symptomatic of that anger.

S1: Katarina , having watched all of this footage , many hours of this footage , you know , as reporters , we try to keep a healthy distance and professional distance from a lot of the subjects we cover. But this kind of negativity can take a toll on us.

S2: And that's something that I felt when I was watching these videos and when it got into , you know , post pandemic , it was kind of like the clip that we heard. It was just one after the other. And and there was people cheering at like racist things and disturbing things. And so it really did get discouraging and and frustrating , almost just the fact that , I mean , because obviously it's people's right to speak , there's nothing much that can be done. If they're within their right to speak. They can say all these negative things. But it did get very discouraging. But something that I would do when I was watching the videos is I would I would take a moment to check in with myself , to pause , walk around , maybe call somebody and just talk about mundane things , because then when I would sit back down , I could feel like I could actually sort through this better and not be at a block and be able to , because I was also writing down what people were saying it was , and I was just listening , but I was always like writing it down and noting it , so I was able to do that more productively.

S1: Well , taking that pause , taking that break , when you're starting to feel that burnout is probably a good practice , generally speaking. So I think that was probably the right approach you had. I want to wrap this up by touching on something you mentioned , which is , you know , the First Amendment , First amendment , freedom of speech in this series really dives into the delicate balance here of allowing people to speak , but also figuring out where is the line when speech falls into an unacceptable profanity , racism , threats , uh , pausing or disrupting meetings. So , Amethi , what is the answer here ? How do we move forward and try to have a more civil discourse while still respecting people's right ? Freedom of speech.

S3: You know , there's a role for elected officials to play , and and that is to model civility , you know , to be respectful when they're addressing one another and when they're addressing members of the public so that that's there. There's also a role for them to respond to some of the viciousness , some of the the really vile language in the wild accusations by saying , you have a right to say this. We respect your right to say this. We don't agree with you , we don't condone it , and we're not doing what you say we're doing. Right. So so call it out. The second aspect of it is really on the public. It's on citizens themselves. They have to a recognize that there's a problem , be they have to be willing to show up. They have to go to these public meetings and express themselves. And that's not all. They have to start getting involved in their neighborhoods and their communities to solve problems. They have to start getting together with people who don't look like them , who don't believe in what they believe. To solve problems , they have to start meeting in spaces that have nothing to do with government coffeeshop , libraries , you know , little league sports games , brownies and Girl Scouts , that kind of thing. They have to get to know one another. We cannot be isolated. I think what is really , really interesting in what I was told by experts who study how to build bridges , how to Build Peace , is a sociologist by the name of Ruth Bronstein from the University of Connecticut , said none of this will mean anything if we don't undertake serious deradicalisation of our fellow citizens. And what that means is we talked to our neighbors , we talked to our family members , we talked to our friends , and if they are clearly echoing misinformation , disinformation , we talk to them. We say , hmm , that's actually not true. Here's the evidence that shows that that's not true. And here are some good sources of information. I think what was really interesting , but about what everyone uniformly told me , from the political scientist to the therapist to the sociologist , to the guy who runs the National Institute for Civil Civic Discourse , is that this is on us. We've got agency. If we want to salvage our way of government , we've got to do it ourselves.

S1: You can read the full investigation and watch the three part series at KPBS. Org. Amita Sharma is an investigative reporter at KPBS. Amita , thanks so much for joining us.

S3: Thanks for having. Me.

S1: Me. And Caterina Portela is an investigative student assistant at KPBS. Thanks for being on roundtable this week.

S2: Thank you. Scott. It's great being here.

S1: When roundtable returns as firefighters continue to battle blazes across San Diego County , we take a look at how the city of Chula Vista is trying to manage the extreme risks it faces from wildfire.

S7: Chula Vista was the largest city in the county to report that a wildfire in the city could be extremely powerful.

S1: That's next on roundtable. Welcome back to roundtable. I'm Scott Rod. Wildfire season in California is ramping up in the San Diego region. Fires have sparked near to Katie Holcombe hot Springs , Bonita and in the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. Fires pose the greatest risk to life and property in the so-called wildland urban interface. That's the space where nature and neighborhoods mix. KPBS reporter Corey Suzuki recently examined the extreme wildfire risk facing the city of Chula Vista , and how the local government and its citizens are responding. Corey , thanks for joining roundtable.

S7: Hi , Scott. Thanks for having me.

S1: The city of Chula Vista rates its wildfire risk as , quote , extreme. Now that sounds pretty alarming. What does that mean exactly ? Right.

S7: Well , that word comes from countywide emergency plan called a hazard mitigation plan that's required by the federal government. And all cities in San Diego County were required to update theirs last year. That plan has cities rank each of the different hazards or disasters that each city could face. By how much of an area they would affect , how strong they would be , how likely they are to happen. Chula Vista was the largest city in the county to report that a wildfire in the city could be extremely powerful , which the city's emergency services manager , Marlene King , told me , means that it could affect up to 75% of the city of a major wildfire sparked to life. Just four other cities in the county reported that level of risk. Those were Escondido , Poway , San Marcos and Vista.


S7: It consistently ranks among some of the the top cities in terms of the the amount of people moving into Chula Vista. And as it grows , those regions , the sort of the where that growth is taking place , has been pushing kind of deeper and deeper into the mountains , into areas where the state considers , um , high fire risk areas. But some of the greatest risks also come from the canyons that sort of carved through the center of the city. Like many cities in San Diego County , those canyons in Chula Vista have really grown wild in recent years with plants like lemonade , sumac , and other brush that are sort of growing without anyone to cut them back and have left sort of these layers of dead branches which serve as potential fuel for a wildfire. And many of the homes around those canyons are also older , especially in the center of the city , and were built before the city. And the state began tightening their regulations on terms of building codes and kind of just making sure that buildings are strengthened more against wildfires so plants can grow closer around the edges of those canyons to right up against buildings and , um , those those homes , there are just a little less prepared to withstand a wildfire to. So if a fire happened there , it could spread quickly. And all of that plant growth would make it hard for firefighters to defend those.

S8: Homes you.

S1: Spoke with. One is Corsia , a Chula Vista resident and real estate agent. He wants people to be more aware of the wildfire risk and he's pushing for solutions.

S7: He and his wife moved in in the same month that they got married , and now they have three younger kids who have really grown up in the city. Juan also started working as a real estate agent here in Chula Vista. So he's really in some ways part of that growth that the city is experiencing. But as part of that work , Juan is also regularly having conversations about wildfire risk , he said , as part of the homebuying process , sort of some of the disclosures that happen when he's talking with people who are interested in buying homes. And so he's been thinking about this a lot. I think also because he and his family recently moved and purchased a new home themselves. So they've been on the other end of those conversations as well.


S7: He talked about seeing the drills that the fire department has been holding recently , especially in the last few months , and feeling reassured that the city is doing their job well. Juan is really big on is having more community dialogue and making sure that there's a network there for neighbors to support each other. He says that he's been trying to bring these conversations into his church and into into the , the , um , and into the conversations with other families that live around him. And right now , I think when I spoke to him , to me , it felt like he was looking for more places to to continue to do that. In.

S8: In.

S1: Terms of networks , in communities that address this problem of wildfire and wildfire risk , fire safe councils are a big piece of that. And your reporting touches on fire safe councils and the Fire safety Council. That was in Chula Vista. First off , let's take a step back. What are fire safe councils and what do they do. Right.

S7: Right. Well , experts on on wildfire and fire safety that I spoke to. You said that fire safe councils , these um , volunteer groups , that of residents , uh , play a really big , big role in this. Um , these are our small volunteer groups that are focused on really raising awareness of fire safety and fire risk , and getting people organized to understand how to both strengthen homes and strengthen buildings , and also be prepared if a wildfire does happen. These groups are really important because they have that kind of local expertise that regional safety groups don't necessarily have , and they're also part of a broad network that's connected across the counties , across different counties , especially in San Diego County. So they're also sort of tapping into this , this broader regional expertise to and in Chula Vista , the Fire Safe Council that's there is currently dormant right now. It sort of shut down during the pandemic. But Marlene King , the city's emergency services manager , is currently working on jumpstarting that and recruiting residents to get it going again , hopefully soon.

S1: And yeah , those fire safe councils there all over the country , they do really provide an essential network for people to get involved , to understand how to protect their homes , how to protect their community. So they really are vital asset. So I imagine it will be important for Chula Vista , as they're coming to terms with this extreme risk that they're facing to get that fire council back up and running again. That way , community members have an outlet to help contribute to preparing their community. Let's take a step back and talk about the bigger picture and history of wildfires in California.

S7: I spoke with Luca Carmen for the story , a fire advisor for Southern California with Yusnor , And he says that wildfire has always been a natural part of the landscape and ecosystem in California , both through naturally occurring wildfires and through managed burns cultivated by California's tribes who have managed the land for thousands of years. But as the state has developed and communities have grown over the last 100 years , regional authorities have really tried to suppress those wildfires. That's protected cities and towns as they've grown , but has also led to the buildup of forests and other ecosystems that would normally be kept in check by fires. And so when wildfires have broken out in recent years , that fuel has made many of them more fierce and destructive , according to Carmen Jani , along with sort of the drier conditions that are being brought on by climate change. Now , I think we're we're sort of at a point where , um , as we start to realize that our relationship with wildfire needs to change. I think many communities like Chula Vista are still trying to navigate kind of the impacts of that history in California and figure out the way forward.

S1: In the people that you spoke to. Is there a recognition in Chula Vista of that history where suppression for a long time , if tamped down on a lot of wildfires , but it did build this bed over many years and decades of essentially , you know , tinderbox around the state that could ignite and burn fiercely. That combined with climate change. And you have a pretty dangerous recipe.

S7: I mean , the last wildfire that burned in Chula Vista was in 2007. It was the Harris fire that I'm sure many people living in San Diego County will remember and burned up right to the edge of the city in in Chula Vista , before eventually firefighters were able to slow it down and to to bring it to a halt right before it reached the city limits. But , um , I think there are a lot of people who remember that. I mean , pretty much everyone that I spoke to for this story remembered that. And , um , some of the the city officials who were working during that time described , you know , the , the scene kind of , um , what it , what it looked like , like to be working at that time , ashes falling from the sky. And , um , just some of these familiar scenes that we've , we've grown to be familiar with in California. But , um , so I think , I think this is something that , you know , even though it's been it's been more than a decade since the the last wildfire in Chula Vista. Um , I think people are still thinking about this a lot. I think just right now , one of the the sort of , um , challenges that the city and the fire department and residents like Juan is Corsia are trying to change. Is that a lot of those conversations , it seems like , are sort of happening between neighbors and in churches and in in community centers and in smaller groups , but maybe doesn't have the kind of centralization that , um , and sort of focused energy that I think people like Juan and , and like the city's emergency service manager , Marlene King , and like the Chula Vista fire chief , Harry Munns , hope to bring together in something like the Chula Vista Fire Safe Council once it's up and running again.

S1: So a desire to focus those energies , centralize those efforts. But that's not to say that Chula Vista hasn't done any work on this.

S7: I mean , Chula Vista has honestly taken some very decisive steps to try and address this risk. In the months since they released this hazard plan , the city has started up. This Fuels Crew , which is a group of specially trained firefighters , wildland firefighters , um , that are currently working on clearing out the most overgrown canyons with , um , just a whole range of heavy equipment , chainsaws , weed whackers kind of going through and trying to clear out some of this brush that's overgrown and that's and create , a defensible space in area between these canyons and the homes that line them , where firefighters would be able to get in and to defend , um , some of those , those buildings , if a wildfire did spark to life in one of those canyons. Um , that's a three , three year effort that started last year. So it's going to be ongoing. And I think that the city sees that as a key part of their the ways that they're trying to address this wildfire risk. And then the city has also been working to improve its emergency response times and strengthen its fire department in general. They're also trying to do things like restart that local fire safe council and other efforts to raise awareness. Um , but still , you know , fire officials like Marlon King in life , like Fire Chief Harriman , said that many of the risks outlined in that plan do still exist. and that really it would take a huge amount of effort and lots of money to clear out all of these canyons that are overgrown. Um , you know , today or this year. So this is going to be an ongoing challenge that I think the , um , this is this is going to be an ongoing effort for the city , I think , and something that I think , uh , the city council and city leaders are going to have to , um , to make some decisions about in terms of how they want to address this going forward.



S7: Vista , you know , Chula Vista isn't completely unique in in the challenges that it's facing. I mean , other cities in the county are also currently grappling with these these same questions. I mean , some of them we talked about earlier cities like like power , like Vista , cities that are that are also facing some of these same levels of risk from a future wildfire. I think also , there are definitely lessons to take away from Chula Vista response. I mean , city fire officials told me that this kind of in-house unit of a fire risk management team is pretty unique , that there are very few cities in California that have something like this on their staff. That's what that's what local officials told me. And I.

S9: Think it's worth.

S7: Taking a look at what they're doing and seeing if that kind of work , that kind of a preventative , proactive measures to to hopefully get ahead of some of these risks might be a good fit for other cities.

S1: Corey Suzuki is KPBS , South Bay and Imperial County reporter. Thanks again for joining us on roundtable.

S7: Thank you. Scott.

S1: When we come back , we catch up on other stories we've been following in the weekly roundup that's coming up after the break. Welcome back to roundtable. I'm Scott rod. It's now time for our weekly roundup of stories we've been following. Joining me is Andrew Bracken. Hey , Andrew.

S8: Hey , Scott.

S1: I want to turn to a story focused on California. It's been sort of a whiplash , uh. Dizzying last few days. Last week , when it comes to a specific ballot proposition that deals with prop 47. So prop 47 for listeners who aren't familiar. It was a proposition that was passed years ago that essentially , among other things , set a threshold for establishing a misdemeanor for shoplifting. So basically , if you shoplift anything under $950 , that's considered a misdemeanor. Now , with the issue of crime being on the minds of a lot of voters this election year , this proposition from years ago has been the focus of a lot of criticism from some voters , but also district attorneys , sheriff's departments , police officer organizations as well. And so there was a ballot proposition that will appear in November , and it would chip away pretty substantially at what proposition 47 lays out. And it would make the penalties for things like shoplifting and other offenses more significant. Now , Democrats have responded to this in a number of ways. They try they propose some legislation that's been moving through the legislature. But there was also this last minute push from Newsom and some other Democrats to try to get a competing ballot measure on the ballot in November. The reforms would be much softer. And the strategy here , in one sense , is when you have competing ballot measures for voters , it could get a little confusing and sometimes they'll just kind of sit it out altogether. But the dizzying part of this is in the last few days , this all just fell apart. I mean , the push to get this competing ballot measure , it was up for a vote , and then ultimately it was pulled at the last minute. And so , you know , you have it shows , among other things , even though California is a super majority Democratic state in the legislature with the Democratic governor. You know , if everyone isn't on the same page , things can fall apart even in a situation like this.

S10: Yeah , this one has been a little dizzying to me. I have to be honest. And you know , you are someone that is like , covered Sacramento. You know how these bills , you know these how the work gets done in the capital. But it's just an odd thing. And just correct me if I'm wrong. So what it is is , you know , there is that ballot measure that's on the ballot we're all going to vote for in in November. But they were sort of playing with this idea of like having a another version of it to fast track that in that we'd also vote on in that same election , they'd.

S1: Both appear on the ballot , they would both make reforms to prop 47. But the one that was being proposed most recently by Dems that fell apart , the reforms were a lot softer. And again , not to add to the confusion here , but they were going to do it through this special election. Technically , that would happen on the same day as the general election. That would have made it easier for them to actually get it on the ballot. So yeah , dizzying is the only way to describe this. I mean , politicking at its finest. However , maybe not in the sense of it actually getting done , just more so the kind of behind the scenes attempt at wrangling to get this thing on the ballot.

S10: But so now it's just back to that original measure is going to be on our ballot , that one measure.

S1: That one measure to.

S10: Reform prop 47.

S1: Yes , that if it does , if it passes , it would make reforms to prop 47 onward.

S10: And it seems like it really interesting time to do this. But he announced a new weekly podcast called politician is what it's going to be called , and it features former running back from the NFL Marshawn Lynch , who went to Berkeley , played for Seattle Seahawks and a couple other teams , but aka Beast Mode. A lot of people know that that term and Lynch's agent. So I just thought in the state of where we are with the National Democratic Party , state of politics , the presidential election , you hear Newsom's name all over the place. I just thought it was an odd time to announce a new podcast with the former football player. And it's yeah , the first episode debuts later this month. I don't know , I just wanted to get your take and see if you.

S1: You know what ? What I've been saying for so long now is what this world is missing. Is one more podcast , right ? And why not have it be hosted by Governor Gavin Newsom ? Did you see the photo of the three of them ? I did. I mean , it looks like a promotional poster for a sitcom that gets canceled after the pilot. It's pretty bad.

S10: I just can't get again. To me , it's like the timing of it. It's just kind of confounding to me. I mean , when I , when I first saw this , I had to kind of double check and triple check. It was on Politico is where I first saw it reported. But no , it is. It's on the iHeartRadio podcast feed or whatever.

S1: I think they should have called it He's Running. It would apply to beast mode and it would apply to Newsom. Oh , just kidding , just kidding. That's great. Um , all right , changing gears here. I want to talk about something that we've discussed previously on roundup , which is a proposal that was all set to take effect on July 1st , which was the banning of junk fees , which has taken effect. However , there is something that did not go into effect , which is nixing the service charges and the surcharges and fees at restaurants. This was something that at the last minute , there was legislation passed and signed by the governor that ultimately exempted these restaurant surcharges from from being a part of this law. So you may still see those pop up. However , I wanted to get your take on this because we have talked about it. It's something that I know some listeners I'm sure have seen before , and maybe it's rubbed up the wrong way.

S10: But since we had that conversation , I've just been kind of keeping an eye out for it. And I have noticed that a few times when I'm eating out. What what's interesting is this not being applied to restaurants. I was just curious where the original intention for for it was because I thought , I don't know. In my head , that was one of the big places where these fees were showing up , were on like restaurant bills.

S1: So I went back to the original bill language and the word restaurant or , you know , dining business does not appear anywhere in the actual bill. And now Senator Bill Dodd , who was a co-author of the legislation , has come out and said , look , restaurants. They were not on my radar when we proposed this legislation. And ultimately , after it was passed. My understanding is the attorney general put out some guidelines about how this , you know , anti junk fee legislation should be applied. And they identified restaurants in these surcharges as one area where they identified restaurants in these surcharges as an example of a junk fee that should be nixed. So that's how this evolved. I was surprised to see that too. But , you know , for better or for worse , keep an eye out on those menus because those those surcharges may still be there.

S10: I mean , it makes sense , you know , hearing the explanation , it makes sense. So it wasn't in the original , the original intention of the bill , it sounds like. And there definitely plenty other areas of our lives where we see the fees. I'm thinking of , like , you know , the Airbnb fees that get added on Ticketmaster. Forget about it.

S1: Concert tickets. Absolutely.

S10: So that makes more sense. But it has , you know , talking about it has made me at least just kind of peek around and just kind of keep an eye on it and see where the , you know , where those fees pop up , I guess. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. Well , I think you got the last story for us , and I think it's a little bit more of a positive note.

S10: They are in San Diego now. Um , this was the pandas were returned to China. Over the last several years , China has kind of brought them back. San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria actually visited China and and was there as part of the ceremony to send , um , the two pandas. Yun Chuan is one and Sing Bao is the other. So they're in San Diego. They're in quarantine for the next couple of weeks , but hopefully they'll be out hanging out with zoo visitors shortly this summer.

S1: That panda diplomacy , you know , at its finest , which is which is great. People get psyched about this and , you know , zoo goers , nature lovers , they love to see this. And I do think it is a good thing. And and I know people who come here to visit San Diego love to go to the zoo and seeing a pair of pandas. I think that would make a lot of people's day. Andrew , thanks for joining me for the roundup.

S10: Thanks , Scott. Appreciate it.

S1: That's our show for today. You can listen to KPBS roundtable any time as a podcast. KPBS roundtable airs on KPBS FM at noon on Fridays and again Sundays at 6 a.m.. If you have any comments on today's show or ideas for a future one , you can email us at roundtable at You can also leave us a message at (619) 452-0228. Round tables. Technical producers are Rebecca Chacon and Brandon Truffaut. This show was produced by Andrew Bracken. Brooke Ruth is Roundtable's senior producer and I'm Scott Rodd. Thanks for listening. Have a great weekend.

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San Diego County Board of Supervisors in chamber on June 26, 2019.
John Carroll
San Diego County Board of Supervisors in chamber on June 26, 2019.

Civility in political discourse has been on the decline in recent years and San Diego County is no exception. KPBS investigative reporter Amita Sharma along with student reporter Katerina Portela reviewed San Diego County Board of Supervisor meetings over several years to measure the rapid rise of incivility. We learn more about their findings.

Then, wildfire season is here. Kori Suzuki discusses the “extreme” wildfire risk facing the city of Chula Vista and how the local government and community are responding.

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


Amita Sharma, investigative reporter, KPBS
Katerina Portela, investigative student assistant, KPBS
Kori Suzuki, South Bay and Imperial Valley Reporter, KPBS
Andrew Bracken, producer/host, KPBS