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City Councilwoman Jen Campbell Has Politics In Her Blood And More Local News

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City Councilwoman Jen Campbell has a family history of political engagement. Her election last November tipped the partisan balance on the council, giving Democrats a veto-proof majority. Police departments across San Diego are releasing their records. And USD students partake in a "sustainable shark tank" at the Fowler Global Innovation Challenge.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 Good morning. It's May 6th I'm Deb Welsh and you're listening to San Diego news matters. San Diego City Council woman, Jen Campbell. What her election last November after a fiercely fought campaign and our final installment of profiles on new city council members. KPBS metro porter, Andrew boy and says, Campbell is learning on the job.

Speaker 2: 00:21 Thanks everybody and thank you for coming out. This is fantastic. You guys are great. It's Saturday morning and Jen Campbell is giving a pep talk to volunteers at a trash pickup along rose creek. And so we're going to make darn sure that the city does a better job of cleaning this up, keeping it clean, making that bike path safe and making it so we can all use it. So thank you so much. As the volunteers make their way up rose creek at Campbell alternates between picking up trash and chatting with constituents. I've done it several times and I, I can't tell you how many hundreds of cigarette butts. My goal is to pick up a million cigarette butts off the awesome

Speaker 3: 01:03 beaches and vase. But, uh, actually it's just, you know, to help keep the environment clean and when we all get in there and do it together, it makes a tremendous difference.

Speaker 2: 01:12 Kimball selection last November was kind of a big deal. She unseated an incumbent, which hadn't been done in decades and her victory gave Democrats as six, three majority on the city council enough to override any vetoes by Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer. You can tell from her office decor politics is in her blood. Former Obama strategist to David Axelrod is her cousin. So when I decided to run, I, uh, I called David and said, you know, I'm really thinking about running for office. And he calls me doctor shorty. Yay. Go Run for office. He's a foot taller than I am. Campbell says she thinks the new council will govern with more compassion,

Speaker 3: 01:50 but I think people will see that the Democrats are not always United. And I think they'll see that the council most of the time is United, even with the Republicans on our side. And we all worked together very well. I think

Speaker 2: 02:02 Campbell has lived in San Diego for 15 years before that. She practiced family medicine and acupuncture in Pittsburgh. She says she ran for council after frustration with the response to the hepatitis a outbreak. Now she says her priorities are environmental protection, homelessness and housing.

Speaker 3: 02:21 The need is great. We need thousands of new housing units. We need to smooth the way. Uh, there's several things in the works that'll help make it easier for builders to build more and for people to be able to afford them.

Speaker 2: 02:36 At the same time, Campbell has opposed to plans and policies to allow more homes to be built. She voted against a plan to add denser and taller housing near a future trolley station. And she was the only vote against eliminating parking requirements for new apartment and condo buildings near public transit stops. She says transit has to get better first. And I don't think people ever give up their cars entirely

Speaker 3: 03:00 because you know, they may want to take a weekend trip in their car. They may want to go to Costco and load up with a month's worth of stuff. And that's kind of hard to haul all that on a trolley

Speaker 2: 03:11 on improving public transit. Campbell says she'd like to see more trolley lines like the extension of the Blue Line that will serve her district, but that project cost more than $2 billion and took decades to get built. I ask her whether she would support quicker and cheaper improvements like bus only lanes on her district's main thoroughfares.

Speaker 3: 03:31 I think Brandon Garnette are already too crowded that I don't think we could, we could take away any lanes there unless you took away maybe a parking lane. And I think, I think express buses probably only need or needed during rush hours. Um, although some of my constituents complaining they don't have enough buses on weekends, so I'm not sure what the answer is. Yes,

Speaker 2: 03:55 the transition from doctor to city council woman has been fun. Campbell says though, she admits she's had a steep learning curve. She says her approach to leadership is not heavy handed.

Speaker 3: 04:05 You have to lead by example for one thing. You have to try to be thoughtful but decisive and you have to be able to let other people who are competent do their jobs.

Speaker 2: 04:17 Andrew Bowen. KPBS news,

Speaker 1: 04:19 the public announce the official records of police shootings and sexual assaults from some San Diego County police departments. This comes after a lawsuit was resolved last month. KPBS investigative reporter Claire Traeger serve as an update on which cities have released what each city is handling, how it releases those records in a different way and cities aren't necessarily releasing records of recent police shootings first. For example, the sheriff's department has released 22 cases so far, but none for officer involved shootings. Sheriff Bill Gore says reviewing and redacting the records takes time and the department has hired additional staff to help in the effort

Speaker 2: 05:01 and is it as we go through and process them and we release them to do the requester and also put them on our website so they're available to other agencies or individuals that might might have an interest. Right.

Speaker 1: 05:12 El Cahone is releasing cases in reverse chronological order with the newest first national city is starting with records all the way back to the 1990s and ocean side is saving. It's police shooting cases to release. Last, Claire Traeger, Sir KPBS news to view the records that have been released go to k pbs.org/investigations the Trump administration has cut off all communication and cooperation with the California high speed rail authority including freezing all environmental review, engineering and safety work dating back to last year as capital public radio has been added or reports the state says that's putting the already embattled project at risk of further delays and cost increases.

Speaker 2: 05:59 The Trump administration started working behind the scenes to derail the project long before the president criticized it. Following governor Gavin Newsome state of the state address in February and also before the federal railroad administration announced it would seek to formerly and its work on the project and blocked nearly a billion dollars in federal funding. I think it's a significant issue and problem for the high speed rail project. Uc Davis Environmental Law Professor Richard Frank, it opens up potential future delays and it leaves this California high speed rail authority open to a third party claims. The authority head kept its criticism about the lack of cooperation, muted in hopes that would change, but it now says the disengagement quote represents an unprecedented federal government action to cripple the advancement of a project. It has helped fund the Fra declined comment at the state capitol. I'm Ben Adler.

Speaker 1: 06:49 Young people in city heights have come together to survey other youth in their community. They say it's in an effort to dispel stereotypes about their neighborhood and to drive change. KPBS reporter Prius Sri there has the story, city heights youth for change. A group made up mostly of first generation African refugee students from city heights has spent the last two years serving 300 young people from their community. They found that students in city heights were happy with their quality of education and felt that their teachers cared about their future. This study also found that as young people got older, they tended to have a more negative perception of law enforcement. Halima Musa is the CO president of the group.

Speaker 4: 07:32 We saw that as city heights youth. We're never relieved the forefront of telling what city heights is light. So we wanted to get input from other use like us and get them to tell us how they feel a city heights can be improved or how it is now.

Speaker 1: 07:46 They're hoping that local leaders will use their findings to make improvements. Priya, sure. Either k PBS news, cal recycle will grant $11 million to food banks, agencies, and companies working to keep surplus food out of landfills. Capital public radio is Julia metric has more food waste, makes up 20% of California's overall waste stream according to figures from cal recycle to meet its climate goals, the state will need to do much more to recover surplus edible food and get it to those in need. Andrew, Shane lobbies on behalf of the California Association of food banks. He says the $11 million in grants or a meaningful step body says, keep in mind the larger context,

Speaker 2: 08:30 the state's climate goals include diverting 20% of all edible food from landfill to people in need by 2025 and to do that, we're going to need to increase this investment by orders of magnitude. Much of the money will go right toward

Speaker 1: 08:45 refrigeration storage and transportation. Three huge costs for food banks and the local agencies they supply and one company will receive nearly hundred thousand dollars to take donated bread products that are no longer consumable and turn them into vodka in Sacramento. I'm Julia [inaudible] rich. Think of the reality TV show shark tank where aspiring entrepreneurs pitch business ideas to a panel of experts except their ideas have to be sustainable. The Falor global innovation challenges like that and over the weekend, USD students pitch their sustainable proposals to win a cash investment. KPBS is Annika. Colbert has the story ideas ranged from freeze drying food waste to make quick mix smoothie packets to a financial literacy program targeting Latin American countries. Casey Myers and Moma Bertrand took second place with one digital world. Meyers says the program teaches women in refugee camps skills they need to start working after resettlement

Speaker 5: 09:47 language skills. Digital Literacy on the first day of class, they even get to build their own working computer from scratch. At the end of the program in three weeks, they will earn certificates from Microsoft, Linkedin and their first college transcripts from the University of San Diego.

Speaker 1: 10:04 Momo Bertrand. We'll go on to represent one digital world at a global version of the innovation challenge in June and a covert KPBS news. The Va is about to launch another new program that allows veterans to seek health care outside the VA system. It's the second time the VA has set up a way for veterans to see private physicians. The previous effort was criticized for costing billions of dollars and requiring veterans to wait weeks for appointments from Los Angeles. Libby Dykeman reports for the American home for a project. Judy Robinson is raising an American flag outside her rambler style house in Long Beach, California. I'm a real stickler for flag etiquette. I was a girl scout. I was a marine. The veteran lives near the Long Beach Va hospital and says she loves her primary care doctor there. That's why rocky experience last year came as a surprise. Robinson had a swollen toe, but she was told the wait to see a VA podiatrist was at least 60 days and I said, well, that's not going to do.

Speaker 1: 11:07 Meanwhile, my toe is swelling more and more each day. The Va has a solution designed just for this situation. The veterans choice program launched in 2014 after a scandal over falsified wait times. Choice gives patients with a longer than 30 day wait or 40 mile drive to a VA facility. The option to see a private doctor. I was thrilled when they offered me the sheet that said, okay, you would qualify for the choice 30 go out. But for Robinson, that is where things stalled. She faced delay after delay in getting a choice referral. Eventually she was fed up a month and a half after contacting the Va. Robinson used her medicare coverage to have the swelling treated by a private specialist. It could have become serious had it been ignored. According to a 2018 government study, many VA have shared Robinson's experience. It found an average 51 day wait time for care under the choice program. The VA now admits choice was a rush job. It repeatedly ran over budget and cost taxpayers billions and overhead enter the new solution. The Va Mission Act signed by president Trump last June spearheading it is VA secretary Robert Wilkie.

Speaker 6: 12:15 All we're doing is getting our veterans on the same playing field as their fellow citizens and we are offering them the opportunity to choose what is important to them.

Speaker 1: 12:26 The mission act simplifies the current jumble of VA community care programs and initiates new standards for vets to use networks of outside doctors. Now veterans who have to wait 20 days or drive more than 30 minutes for VA primary care or mental health appointments, we'll get the green light to see private doctors. The VA expects that will more than double the number of vets eligible, but some veterans groups and members of Congress are sounding the alarm about the new rules and what they consider a creeping privatization of VA healthcare. We are at a crossroads here. California congressmen. Mark Takano is the chairman of the House veteran's affairs committee. He was one of 55 Democrats who signed a letter asking the VA to reevaluate the mission x standards and price tag.

Speaker 7: 13:11 That's just going to drive up costs but not necessarily better care, not necessarily more timely access. And we'll see whether in a way of VA medical centers

Speaker 1: 13:22 Wilkie rejects that prediction far from withering. He points out the Va's budget has increased under the Trump administration. Wilkie also cites recent studies showing shrinking wait times and better health outcomes in the VA system, which the secretary says we'll encourage many veterans to stick with their VA doctors.

Speaker 6: 13:40 We're privatizing VA, we're going about it in a very strange way

Speaker 1: 13:44 with a big transition ahead. Many vehicles,

Speaker 8: 13:46 patients don't know what to make of the new rules down at the, I hop in Palmdale, California Army Vet Dean Brown is puzzling over the proposed mission act standards. There are some confusing things in there. He's optimistic about some changes. For example from minor ailments, patients can walk

Speaker 1: 14:03 into urgent care clinics but brown wants more information. Like what does a 30 minute drive time standards really mean in southern California?

Speaker 8: 14:12 Legendary traffic just for my house cause the clinic and the Lancaster. I can usually make it there in 20 minutes. You're also depends on what time of day I can go past that. 30 minutes real quick. Well, questions linger. The VA says

Speaker 1: 14:27 the new rules will start in June in Los Angeles. I'm Libby Bankman. This story was produced by American, a whole fraud, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veteran's funding comes from the corporation for public broadcasting. Thanks for listening to KPBS is San Diego news matters podcast. For more local stories, go to k pbs.org.

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San Diego News Matters

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.