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LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Racial Justice | Election 2020

Protesters In La Mesa Demand Justice For Women of Color

Cover image for podcast episode

Protesters marching in La Mesa, Calif. August 1, 2020.

Max Rivlin-Nadler

Demonstrators gathered Saturday at La Mesa City Hall to demand justice for women of color as the city set temporary restrictions in a two-block downtown zone. And, the Marine Corps says eight troops are presumed dead after their landing craft sank off the Southern California coast during a training exercise. Plus, School starts this week online for the Sweetwater Union High School District. Also, we have a full length interview with Metropolitan Transit System's first woman CEO, Sharon Cooney.

Local hotels are asking the city for rent relief after big revenue losses because of the pandemic.

Miro Copic is a lecturer at San Diego State University and cofounder of bottomline marketing. He said a group of hotels and businesses in Mission Bay are the ones asking for a break.

HOTELRENT 2A (:17)
"What they're also asking, if they haven't paid rent or if they are deferring rent that the city doesn't put a default claim on them because any of these hotels that have bank loans, those default claims can hurt their bank loan line of credit."

Copic says those deferments would allow hotels to spend their limited revenue on marketing and COVID-19 safety upgrades.

And relief for the hotel business is not yet on the horizon - a new study shows San Diego's usual convention business won't bounce back until next year at the earliest.

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Lots of people don't want to get on a plane, train or bus these days. That's what seems to be behind a big spike in the boat and RV sales.

At RV Solutions in Kearny Mesa, sales have more than doubled since march. At California Yacht Sales on Harbor Island, Director of Marketing Tom Bossenger ((BOSS-en-jer)) says sales have tripled. He said as soon as a boat hits the market the phone starts ringing off the hook.

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Imperial County is finally spending state funds it got for homeless services.
Our partners at inewsource are reporting that the county got the money nearly two years ago.
Imperial County supervisors last week OK'd a seventy-five-thousand dollar contract with United Way to help at-risk residents stay out of homelessness.
That’s out of the nearly two million dollars in state aid given to Imperial County.
But, other agencies still are waiting for their share of the funding. For more on this story, you can go to inewsource dot org.

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On a Monday, I’m Anica Colbert, filling in for Kinsee Morlan.
It’s August 3rd and you’re listening to San Diego News Matters from KPBS News.
Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

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A protest in La Mesa on Saturday drew hundreds of people to its streets — including counter protestors, some armed with knives.
March organizers say they wanted justice for both Breonna Taylor and Vanessa Guillen, two young women of color who were killed in recent months. KPBS reporter Max Rivlin-Nadler has the story.

LAMESAPROTEST 1 (1:03)
Two months after protests led to clashes between police, protestors, and burned out stores, The city of La Mesa took several precautionary measures before the protest. It blocked traffic to its downtown area, banned items including weapons, rocks and glass bottles, and called on nearby police departments for support.
Chine, who declined to give his last name, is with the group Rise Up San Diego, one of the organizers of the march.
Chine: what I saw a lot of today was solidarity. We had a lot of people speak from their heart, those are the types of things we'd like to see. We need black and brown to unite together.
The march wound through the hills of La Mesa for several hours before returning downtown, where it was met with several counter protestors. Several of them waved flags supporting President Trumps re-election.
Police attempted to stay between the two groups, and several small skirmishes between the two broke out. But by nightfall, most protestors had returned home. Max Rivlin-Nadler, KPBS News

That was KPBS Report Max Rivlin-Nadler

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Nine have been declared dead and two Marines are hospitalized, with one in critical condition, after a small Marine craft sank off the Southern California coast last Thursday.

The Navy called off the search on Sunday. KPBS Military Reporter Steve Walsh has more.
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MARINEFOLO 47
Early Thursday evening, the 26 ton Amphibious Assault Vehicle sank quickly, in sight of other craft, during an exercise in the waters off San Clemente Island. Eight Marines were recovered quickly, including a Marine who died.
After searching 1,000 nautical miles, the Navy called off the search for the remaining 8 early Sunday. A total of 8 Marines and one sailor are believed to be dead. Unmanned vehicles are searching for the landing craft, which is believed to have sunk in several hundred feet of water, below the range of divers.
The head of the Marines David Berger ordered a halt to all water operations for the aging AAV. First introduced in 1972, the vehicles have been upgraded several times. Attempts to replace it began in the 1990s. Steve Walsh KPBS News.

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The state and county has limited its COVID testing to certain people because labs are backlogged. But a local community clinic is not planning to limit tests because its positivity rates are much higher than the county's.

Dr. Christian Ramers (RAY-murrs) at Family Health Centers of San Diego says monthly positivity rates at its sites ranged from 13 to 16%. That's higher than the county's daily 6 to 8%.

INFECTION 2A (:14) "And so we feel this very big conflicting feeling that the state's criteria are designed to restrict a little bit of some of the unnecessary testing and yet we're seeing in our communities especially in the south bay very high positivity rates telling us we should be doing more of what we're doing."

Ramers says the Family Health Centers lab provides results in about 48 hours and it doesn't plan to restrict who they test.

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Students at Sweetwater Union High School District are the first in San Diego county to start their school year. And it starts...well, today. And like all schools in the region, classes will be online.
KPBS Education Reporter Joe Hong has this story on what the first week is gonna look like.
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SWEETWATER S/S (joh) 1:09 SOQ

Like many parents at Sweetwater, Blanca Wines was disappointed by how distance learning went in the spring. Her three kids had trouble focusing at home, and they weren't motivated to do their work because they weren't being graded. Now as the first new school year under the pandemic starts, she still has concerns.

WINES.mp4
00:02:34:01
BLANCA WINES /// SWEETWATER PARENT
Teachers are supposed to be online right? And so how are they gonna engage with people? Because I know the whole social aspect of being at school is helpful. They need that interaction with their classmates. How are they going to incorporate that into learning this semester?

Sweetwater teachers will take attendance and give grades. And the district HAS spent the summer training teachers in online learning. But when the pandemic first shut down schools, teachers had the benefit of already knowing their students. Michelle Mardahl teaches biology at Bonita Vista High School in Chula Vista. She said she's worried about starting from scratch.

MARDAHL.mp4
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MICHELLE MARDAHL /// BONITA VISTA HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER
I feel overwhelmed. I feel more nervous. I feel the responsibility is.. I gotta plan this right so I can give them the experiences and the tools they need for the future.

Sweetwater will conduct distance learning at least until October 2nd. The district's schools could reopen depending on the status of COVID-19. Joe Hong KPBS News.

That was KPBS Education Reporter, Joe Hong.

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And stay with us….

MTS: 0:12

We have a full length interview with the Metropolitan Transit System’s first ever woman CEO. She talks about MTS’ trials and strategies to get through the pandemic. That’s up next after this short break.

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San Diego's Metropolitan Transit System lost its CEO, Paul Jablonski, in May, after he suffered a sudden heart attack. Within days the agency's board of directors appointed Sharon Cooney to replace him. Cooney has worked at MTS for 15 years, most recently as the deputy ceo. And, she's the first woman to lead the agency.

KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen spoke with her about her plans for the future. Here’s that interview….

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MTSCHIEF LONG (ab) 8:33 soq
AB: Sharon Cooney, thank you so much for speaking with us.
SC: Oh, thank you for having me.
AB: So you took the helm at MTS in a time of real crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has hurt your ridership. It's hurt your finances. What are your priorities as you try to navigate this really difficult time?

SC: It's been a challenge. But you know it's been great being part of such a great team at MTS. We get through it together. I think my highest priority is to continue with the excellent level of service that we've provided pre-COVID, to make sure that we continue to be the best transit agency, to continue to reach all of the goals for things like ridership. As people come back to work, make sure that we have a really great on-time performance. All of the things that matter to people when they're choosing transit for their commute and their daily lives — that's my highest priority.

AB: What are the biggest barriers to recovery for MTS?

SC: Well, I think the big challenge is making sure that our customers and our employees are safe. I mean, that's a high priority as well. It underlies everything we do. We want to make sure that, for instance, if somebody has to now start going in to work as the economy opens up, they choose transit because they know we are a safe alternative to an automobile. We what we've been doing, everything from using foggers that immediately disinfect the vehicles to making sure we have germ barriers to protect our drivers on the buses. Where we're putting those in as we speak and we'll have the fleet done by the end of August. We are making sure that everybody's wearing a mask. If you're going to choose transit, you're going to wear a mask. And so if you don't have one, we'll provide one for you to use as well.

AB: I want to ask you about your fair enforcement policies. This has been under scrutiny a little bit. The Voice of San Diego has reported on a big surge and fare citations that have been issued over the past couple of years, how sometimes failing to pay a $2.50 fare can spiral into hundreds of dollars in fines and fees and things like that. What does that tell you? Does this concern you? And what will fair enforcement look like under your leadership?

SC: So we've already begun working with the board of directors and through our public security committee. Our chair, (San Diego City Councilmember) Monica Montgomery, has really helped us drive forward a couple of new policies. One of them is a diversion program that will start in September. What this will do is it allows people a chance to — first, if you are approached and you don't have a fare on board the trolly, we're going to allow you to buy your fare. But then if you can't, then you can expunge the potential citation, and you have 120 days to do so. So the diversion program is intended for those who, you know, for for whatever reason couldn't pay for their fare or didn't pay for their fare, but that they could avoid having to go through any kind of procedure, administrative or otherwise. This, I think, will be really helpful for those who feel like they've been somehow harmed by the way we were doing fare enforcement.

AB: Your predecessor, Paul Jablonski, passed away really suddenly in May, and you had worked with him for many years. What did you learn from him?

SC: Well, I learned a lot about transit, obviously. I wasn't in transit before I started here at MTS. But I learned a lot about the nuts and bolts. But I think more than that, I think I learned the value of team building and really understanding that it's not just one person, it's everybody pulling together to become the most effective, excellent transportation system that we possibly could be. So that's what I learned from him, and I'm hopeful to bring that forward in my own leadership.
AB: All right. Well, Sharon Cooney, thank you so much for speaking with us.
SC: You're welcome. And thanks for having me.

That was KPBS Metro Reporter Andrew Bowen, speaking with Sharon Cooney, the CEO of San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit System.

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San Diego News Matters is a daily morning news podcast powered by all of the reporters, editors and producers in the KPBS Newsroom.

Tune in to KPBS Midday Edition at noon on KPBS radio or KPBS Evening Edition at 5pm on KPBS television to keep up with the news throughout your day.

You can also find us on Twitter @ Kpbs news, or to find our podcast producer, Kinsee Morlan, she’s @ Kinsee. I’m @AnicaColbert. And as always you can find more KPBS podcasts, like Only Here or Cinema Junkie, on our website at KPBS dot org slash podcasts, or wherever it is you get your podcasts.

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