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Community Groups Call For Moratorium On City’s ‘Smart Streetlights’ And More Local News

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More than a dozen community groups are asking the city of San Diego to stop using “smart” streetlights over privacy concerns. The city says, cameras on the lights are only recording images in the public right of way. Plus, a rash of deaths from vaping, including a California man this week, has increased demands from a local nonprofit for its anti-vamping seminars in San Diego schools. Also on today’s #CoveringClimateNow, a look at how the national guard is being affected with more deployments to battle climate-related disasters. And, San Diego City Council on Tuesday voted to establish a joint-powers authority to buy and sell energy in competition with private companies like San Diego Gas & Electric.

Speaker 1: 00:00 It's Wednesday, September 18th I'm Deb Welsh and you're listening to San Diego news matters from KPBS coming up, community groups asking the city of San Diego to stop using Smart Street lights over privacy concerns and major Robert Langston has seen his civilian career with the forest service slowly merged with his role in the California National Guard in the on the affects of military personnel that affects also firefighters, you know, taking people away from the families that more coming up right after the break. Thank you for joining us for San Diego News Matters. I'm Deb Welsh outcry over spar streetlight technology community groups are calling on city leaders to stop using thousands of cameras positioned on streetlights around San Diego. KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman says some claim the cameras are being used to spy on city residents.

Speaker 2: 00:54 The city says the use of the smart street lights started as a cost saving effort to replace older street lights three years ago. There's now thousands of them up with cameras and sensors collecting data on parking people bikes, temperature and humidity. Genovia of Jones, right, with partnership for the advancement of new Americans. And more than a dozen community groups are asking the city to stop using the cameras until the public is involved in oversight and the use of the technology.

Speaker 3: 01:17 We have uncovered what the city has been trying to hide under language like metadata and sensor nodes that hide the fact that they have set up surveillance, spying cameras without public input.

Speaker 2: 01:31 City officials say there was a lot of misinformation being spread. The cameras don't feel private property collect audio, have facial recognition or license plate reading capabilities, but the police department does have access to the video and it has been used in more than 160 investigations, Matt Hoffman, k PBS news.

Speaker 1: 01:48 Continuing our series on climate change this week. We're also hearing from young San Diego's about how they feel the changing climate will impact them. Today we'll hear from a Marianna olds, a 13 year old who lives in city heights.

Speaker 4: 02:03 I believe that climate change is really important and that is gonna impact your, if we don't change it, okay, there are ways to change global warming or the soffit. I think that we should because if you destroy the earth, then you're basically destroying which you live on and how you're going to have to live in the future and the future. Since the sea levels are rising, I think they won't be as much land or there will be. It'll just be covered in water.

Speaker 1: 02:30 That interview was produced by reporter Claire Traeger, sir. To see all our climate change stories go to change, south bay politicians and clean water advocates are calling on President Donald Trump to act KPBS environment. Reporter Eric Anderson says they want Trump to fix the region's ongoing cross borders, sewage issues.

Speaker 2: 02:52 More than 120 million gallons of sewage tated water has flowed into the United States since the beginning of September. Imperial Beach, Mayor

Speaker 5: 03:00 Serge and Edina says the situation is unacceptable and he's gathered more than 2100 letters from area residents demanding action from federal, state, and local officials to Dina as asking president Trump, who's in town for a fundraiser this week to fix things?

Speaker 6: 03:15 President's budget needs to include money to fix this issue and Mexico needs to step up to the plate and immediately fix all the broken infrastructure. I just met with a new head of the sewer agency. Can you admit it that this entire system is broken, it's falling apart and there's no one to fix it. And that's why we've been seeing these consistent spills during dry weather

Speaker 5: 03:34 to Dina says, the EPA needs money to help Mexico fix it. Sewer system and the United States needs to spend money on a better diversion system to capture polluted flows. Eric Anderson, KPBS News,

Speaker 1: 03:47 uh, two Larry County resident this week became the seventh person in the u s to die from a vaping related respiratory illness. KPBS health reporter Teran Minto says the national outbreak has increased demand for anti vaping seminars in San Diego schools and they have been using these in-class Mary Balm points to e-cigs and mango nicotine pods that were confiscated from local students. Bomb coordinates in school trainings on vaping dangers for the nonprofit, say San Diego. The group presented to seven schools last year and many more are asking this year. At least three or four calls a week from schools, non traditional schools, um, uh, middle schools. The presentation focuses on nicotine with some information about cannabis. Federal health officials still don't know what's causing the current outbreak, but most vaping related illness patients say they vaped cannabis either by itself or in addition to nicotine. Taryn Mento KPBS news, it's official San Diego's breaking away from SDG and. D to form its own energy provider. KPV as Metro reporter Andrew Ball and says the city council approved the deal Tuesday. The program called community choice energy is key to the city's efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions once the program is operational. In 2021, local elected officials will select the mix of power plants that provide electricity to residents and businesses SDG e will still deliver that power through the grid. Mayor Kevin Faulkner says the program can offer cheaper electricity rates than SDG and. E

Speaker 7: 05:20 we'll be able to create our own destiny because we will have full control of where we purchase power from and it will be clean energy.

Speaker 1: 05:30 The program is set to include Chulavista La Mesa Encinitas and imperial beach. The new agency is expected to have its first board meeting next month. Andrew Bowen KPBS news over the past decade, the California Army National Guard has been spending more money and sending more people to fight wildfires as part of our week long series on San Diego's climate crisis. KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh went out with major Robert Langston who's finding that climate change is among the factors causing his civilian job to merge with his guard duty

Speaker 8: 06:04 major. Robert Langston is originally from Puerto Rico. He's lived in San Diego for 12 years to be near his civilian job with the forestry service inside the Cleveland National Forest. In August, he was in the Sierra Nevada mountains near Fresno, part of a guard task force. At times it feels like fire is all around him. Like the 2013 chariot fire, which came close to where his family lives in Pine Valley.

Speaker 9: 06:27 It's exhausting work. Uh, you're working therefore, but, but at some point and you see, you realize, oh, this fire is going to get close to where I work or where I live. And, and you know, just in your back of your mind, only you're worried about working, but you're worried about your families. And now, okay, so now I've got gotta start worrying my family. Most of the polices that we fight fire, we don't have signal. So it's a lot of, you know, fire and all over, you know, firefighters all over death, California. I mean, this is the same all the time you, you're working in, but you gotta work out with your family.

Speaker 8: 06:57 The Cherry had fire burned through 7,000 acres east of San Diego over the years. Langston has helped fight several fires as an assistant fire engine operator. This year he's leaving operation rattlesnake.

Speaker 10: 07:10 Okay.

Speaker 8: 07:11 California National Guard effort to clear the brush that fuels fires.

Speaker 10: 07:15 All right.

Speaker 9: 07:16 The level of support has been increasing. We are providing more support to, uh, especially while on fire. So from a firefighter perspective, I mean, you know, for whatever reason, yeah. Fires are getting more and more intense. Yeah.

Speaker 8: 07:28 In fiscal year 2013 the California national guard build the state and federal governments less than $6 million to send mainly guard air crews to fight fires. So far this year, the California Guard has received over $34 million. Most of that money is for personnel troops on the ground to fight alongside cal fire

Speaker 10: 07:50 [inaudible]

Speaker 8: 07:51 for the first time, guard members are working year round to prevent fires. Major Langston, it has a task force of 100 guardsman. We're spending the year clearing brush and felling dead trees, including in the Sierra's outside of [inaudible].

Speaker 10: 08:03 No,

Speaker 8: 08:08 the Meza Specialists With the Army National Guard grew up not too far away from these mountains. I think that in the past couple of years, the fires have just been getting worse and worse and this has been needed for a long time and the fact that they're, they're putting us into play is, is something that's been needed for a while. After a year of devastating wildfires, California governor Gavin Newsome called up the guard to help build these firebreaks around the state. The 2018 campfire killed 86 people and destroyed more than 13,000 homes, most in the town of Paradise, Ramen, Ramen auth. And a professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography says the guard can expect the wildfire risk associated with climate change to increase.

Speaker 9: 08:49 The fire season is expanding because the planet is getting warmer. What was

Speaker 11: 08:56 spring before? It's becoming like summer temperatures, right? And since it's happening throughout the year, the, the trees are drying out. So when the fire happens, it's preds

Speaker 8: 09:15 major Langston oversees his national guard crew. The crew is looking for so-called widowmakers dead limbs that could drop on firefighters felling dead trees that can transfer the fire to the tree tops, which are called the forest canopy. And out of the reach of firefighters on the ground

Speaker 9: 09:32 or a human being can only fight a fire, a certain amount of flame height. I mean, when you get into canopy fires, I mean, it's an amazing spectacle because sometimes you can see the canopy burning while under the trees. There's no, there's no ground fire and he's right. A rapid rate of spread. I mean, and he's intense. You know,

Speaker 8: 09:48 critics question the practicality of building firebreaks around the state saying they would not have stopped a fast moving fire like the inferno that decimated paradise. Regardless, it's safe to bet that climate change means guard troops will continue to be pressed into new roles. Steve Walsh, KPBS news

Speaker 1: 10:06 tomorrow reporter Matt Hoffman Examines How rising sea levels are threatening residents and businesses in imperial beach. You can find all our stories on San Diego's climate crisis at change. Thanks for listening to San Diego News matters. If you're not already a subscriber, take a minute to become one. You can find San Diego news matters on apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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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.