Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: George Floyd Protests | Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

Let Slomo Ride

Cover image for podcast episode

A petition was launched today to reopen a portion of Ocean Front Walk between Mission Beach and Pacific Beach for one select purpose: to allow the rollerblader known as ``Slomo'' to once again take to the boardwalk, where he's been a rolling icon for, like, ever. Also on KPBS’ San Diego News Matters podcast: city and county officials are moving forward with a plan to reopen the economy faster than currently allowed by California guidelines, Metropolitan Transit System workers are getting $1000 bonuses for their work during the coronavirus pandemic and more local news you need.

City and county officials are moving forward with a plan to reopen the economy faster than currently allowed by California guidelines.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer said Thursday that the state guidelines for reopening are so strict that 95 percent of counties won’t be able to meet them for a very long time. He said San Diego County has its own plan for a safe and much more accelerated reopening.

It's a plan on how businesses can open and operate in this new normal with physical distancing, sanitation, limited occupancy, um, all the steps that we've all been working on over these last several weeks. It's a chance to begin our recovery phase. San Diego are ready to go back to work safely.

The mayor said more details about the accelerated reopening plan would be released next week.
***
The world's doctors are researching a new, but so far very rare children's illness connected to COVID-19.

It's called pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome or PIMS and is similar to Kawasaki disease.

Symptoms include fever, severe rash and abdominal pain and the disease can cause acute heart failure.

Dr. Jane Burns directs the Kawasaki Disease Clinic at Rady Children's Hospital here in San Diego. She says the positive news is treatment is working.

children with this very serious heart condition are responding very well, most of them, to treatment with intravenous immunoglobulin, which is what we use to treat Kawasaki disease

Burns says there have been only a little more than 100 reported cases in the US, including at least 3 in LA.

She says there hasn't been a local case but Rady is reviewing its earlier Kawasaki patients to see if they were actually suffering from this new illness.

***
The county now appears to have softened its stance in regard to tribal casino reopenings.

After Viejas and Sycuan announced that operations will be restarted on Monday, the county’s public health officer Wilma Wooten said the county didn’t agree with that date and seemed poised for a bit of a fight with the tribes.

But yesterday, County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher reversed course.

I respect the sovereignty of the tribal nations. Uh, this is a decision that is for them to make and there is a very long and very dark history in this country. Of white people in particular telling our native Americans what they should and shouldn't do. Uh, and I'm not going to be a part of continuing that into the future.

The casinos say their plans to reopen next week come with strict social distancing and hygiene requirements along with cutting-edge cleaning technology.

***
California is facing a 54-billion-dollar deficit due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Governor Gavin Newsom's revised budget released Thursday includes less money for education, health care, and programs to help the state's homeless population.

In outlining his 203-billion-dollar spending plan, Newsom returned to a central theme...it's up to the federal government to help ease the pain.

"The federal government we need you. These cuts can be negated. They can be dismissed with your support. This is your moment."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has proposed giving states and local governments nearly a trillion dollars as part of a second stimulus package. But Republicans have pushed back on the plan.

Newsom's cuts to existing state government programs include a ten percent pay cut for state workers and deferring payments to their pension funds.

***
And for the latest local COVID-19 count: county officials reported a half-dozen additional deaths and 113 new infections, bringing the death toll to 200 and the total number of confirmed cases to 5,391.

County health officials also reported nearly 4,000 COVID-19 tests Thursday, a
single-day high. More than 92,000 tests have been administered since the
pandemic began.

***
From KPBS, I’m Kinsee Morlan and you’re listening to San Diego News Matters.

It’s Friday, May 15.

Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

***
A petition was launched yesterday to reopen a portion of Ocean Front Walk between Mission Beach and Pacific Beach for one select purpose: to allow the rollerblader known as ``Slomo'' to once again take to the boardwalk, where he's been a rolling icon for, like, ever.

Slomo is actually 77-year-old retired neurologist John Kitchin.

On most days pre-COVID, you could find him rollerskating the board walk in slow motion while wearing memorable outfits and even NOT wearing much of any outfit at all.

***
A proposal to eliminate San Diego's 30-foot height limit in the Midway District took a step forward.

The City Council's Rules Committee voted to draft language for the November ballot. Supporters, such as Point Loma resident Rachel Laing, say allowing taller buildings could speed up the neighborhood's revitalization.

If San Diego neighborhoods were a family, the Midway District would be that drunk uncle that everyone said had so much potential as a kid before he got into the drinking and the gambling. Point Lomans and people all over San Diego have always wished for Midway to change. No one cherishes this area in its current state.

Councilmember Barbara Bry (Bree) cast the only vote against the measure, saying it was not urgent enough for the city to spend money placing it on the ballot.

***
Some restaurants in rural california counties are now reopening for dine-in service.

This comes after the state just released guidelines for how eateries could safely reopen.

But KPBS Reporter Matt Hoffman spoke to San Diego restaurant owners who aren't ready to go back to the way things were.

00;38;07;05 Walchef
We've transformed this entire front of our restaurant

Shawn Walchef owns Cali Comfort B-B-Q in Spring Valley. For twelve years the majority of his business was dine in, but two months ago, coronavirus restrictions closed dining rooms.

00;35;01;22 Shawn Walchef, Cali Comfort BBQ
We didn't really know what we were going to do we we're going to be delivery and takeout and it was pretty much a brand new business

Walchef has been using social media and his website to build up takeout and delivery sales and isn't looking to reopen his dining room anytime soon.

00;44;43;08 Walchef
There's so much uncertainty out there, the only thing that we can control is what we know. And what we know right now is what we're doing has been working. It's safe, it's effective

It's unclear when restaurants will reopen for dine in service in San Diego county, but for Walchef it's just not worth the risk right now.

00;37;46;18 Walchef
We operate on very thin margins and for us we want to do something that safe and we don't really know what's safe even with the new guidelines that have come out

Walchef understands some people want to go back to eating out at restaurants, but don't be surprised when the green light is given to reopen if some businesses aren't jumping at the opportunity.

00;43;01;16 Walchef
That will happen, we just have to give it time

The restaurant business has changed dramatically in the last couple of months, and that's made it hard for the San Diego seafood industry to stay afloat.

KPBS science and technology reporter Shalina Chatlani says businesses may get some relief from a government stimulus package, but how quickly they can bounce back may depend on the types of fish they supply.

PROBLEM: Restaurants closed/market is temporary solution

AMBI: MUSIC At San Diego's Dockside Tuna Harbor Market on a recent Saturday, hundreds of people line up along the pier. They're here to get their hands on some fresh fish, caught and butchered AMBI: KNIVES by local fishermen. /CHOP MUSIC fades out…

Jordyn Katslunger is a third generation fisherman in San Diego.. She's spending more time here than usual now… since she lost her steady job at a seafood restaurant in March.

KATSLUNGER: I became unemployed at the ripe age of 23.

Katslunger says fishermen can't sell to restaurants or processors, because most of them have closed. Seafood also isn't a popular takeout item.

KATSLUNGER: it's just really limited to what and how much they're taking. So the market has been the biggest export of where we can sell our stuff.

And then there's also the problem of species.

KATSLUNGER: so our biggest thing that people are asked for that we don't have is salmon. We don't have that down here.

This 6 years old market is busier than ever, as consumers opt for a larger batch of fresh seafood over frozen products from the grocery. And, Katslunger says consumers are willing to try different types of fish that the fishermen are able to catch now.

That's a relief for fishermen. But, she admits, this once a week market and willingness to try different species may not last….

KATSLUNGER: fresh fish isn't cheap and cheap fish isn't fresh. I hope that it continues to stay as interesting to people.

PART 2: REASON WHY: That's a huge part of the industry, and species matters

That interest is key...Because those processors and distributors that fishermen rely on for the majority of their sales…. Are already hurting, says Gavin Gibbons, an executive at seafood trade group the National Fisheries Institute

GIBBONS: companies reporting losses of, you know, tens and hundreds of millions of dollars already.

Federal statistics show the seafood industry sees around 140 billion dollars in commercial sales nationally… and 70% of that comes through restaurants. Gibbons says the problem is most suppliers normally sell expensive species to restaurants. And they can't just sell those fish to canned pet food processors, because they won't cover their costs. Also, some fish is only sold to suppliers in bulk. But that can't happen now, because suppliers don't have the customers and they can't store all of it.

GIBBONS: there is not enough cold storage space to hold, you know, every piece of Pollock and every piece of salmon that comes out of the water in Alaska. I can't load up this boat and bring it to a processor who's gonna tell me I can't take your product because it's perishable

In late March Congress passed and the president signed a 2.2 trillion dollar coronavirus stimulus bill, with $300 million destined for fisheries and seafood businesses. California is getting 18 million of that.

Gibbons: just now being distributed to states so that they can pass it along to the seafood community. And it hasn't even begun to reach seafood companies yet.

Part 3: SOLUTION, GOV MONEY? BUT DAMAGE IS DONE?

STRANGMAN. It was just so humiliating. We're a small business, like a family and having to give them that packet with the unemployment information. it was really hard they kind of knew it was coming but not that quickly

San Diego Seafood Inc., normally sources and supplies tens of thousands of pounds of seafood to restaurants a week. Owner Kathy Strongman sits by her backyard pool and reflects on March, when her business dropped to only a couple hundred pounds of fish.

STRANGMAN: We would have been negative 15-20 thousand dollars a day.

After crunching the numbers, she said they had to close. She applied for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan right away.

When you buy one load of halibut, let's say you buy. Two thousand pounds. You're talking that's twenty two thousand dollars... a lot of money to invest if you can't move that product off. Now other industries like pet food, they use sardines, anchovies that aren't really used on center plate.

She got finally was notified this week that her loan application went through. Less than what she had asked for, but says it's even to get started up again. She says she'll need to work on coronavirus safety guidelines and begin sourcing fresh seafood again.

But after being the business for so long, she's prepared and eager to get started. She recalls one memory when she knew that she'd be in this for the long haul.

My oldest, he'd come home and he'd say, Mommy, you stink. I'd be like it smells like money. OK, this is our livelihood. This is what's going to raise you.

In the meantime, she hopes the San Diego fishing family can get through this pandemic together, showcasing their talents like they do AMBI MUSIC at the Dockside Market. Shalina

That was KPBS science and technology reporter Shalina Chatlani.

***

Metropolitan Transit System workers are getting $1000 bonuses for their work during the coronavirus pandemic.

KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen says the bonuses will be funded with federal stimulus dollars.
______________________________________________

AB: Thanks to the CARES Act passed by Congress, MTS also plans to restore most of the bus and trolley services it cut last month. Ridership is still down by about 70 percent — but the agency wants to keep vehicles well below capacity to allow passengers to social distance. Interim CEO Sharon Cooney told board members Thursday the bonuses are well deserved.

SC: The employees are out in the public dealing with their own problems at home with health care or … childcare concerns. As a thank you for all of that, and to kind of keep good will and morale through this period, we would like to offer up a one-time bonus.

AB: MTS is still reeling from the recent death of CEO Paul Jablonski, and is holding a procession of 40 buses on Friday to honor his legacy.

The San Diego arts community woke up to some sad news Thursday morning.

Local arts legend Bob Matheny passed away.

Lots of people, including me, considered the artist and arts educator a friend and mentor.

Matheny was an art provocateur.
He refused to put art on a pedestal. He hated the pretension that poisons so much of the art world. Instead, he poked fun at art. Made sure no one ever took it too seriously.
Every time I interviewed him for a story, I'd say, "Wait, are you messing with me?" at least 10 times, because he was always joking around and trying to pull one over on you.
But Matheny, more than anyone I've ever met, understood the incredible importance of making art and sharing it with others.
Seriously, the guy made art Every. Single. Day. He climbed the steep stairways that led up to his home studio every day. From there, he took the art he already had and made it into something new. I was one of the lucky ones to be on the receiving end of his emails, where he always included pictures of art and wrote stories about himself, the world and, of course, the art he was making.
Here’s more on the man from KPBS arts calendar editor and producer Julia Dixon Evans.

Bob Matheney made art every single day. Even towards the end, the San Diego artists died Wednesday after a battle with an illness. He was 91 the longtime Baldisari contemporary and friend will be remembered for defining the regions, mid century art scene and building community college gallery and art programs, particularly at Southwestern college.

It's very sad. It's a huge loss. And he was this wonderful, you know, a Bulent, open minded, creative person. Really, really amazing and sad that we've lost this living link to our own history. Someone that shaped the contemporary art scene in San Diego, that's Dave Hampton curator and the long time friend of Mathenia.

Hampton said that many of the shows he curated involved Matheeney including a show at Oceanside museum of art called spinning in the wind. The title comes from a quote attributed to John Baldessari. The idea that a lot of contemporary art made in the regions since the sixties and seventies was really important, but very few people were paying attention.

Part of what I tried to do with the spitting in the wind show is basically to put Bob's work and John Baldessari's work side by side and saying, these guys were friends, contemporaries. They were doing the exact same kinds of things because they were in the same. Social pool and looking at each other's work and exploring the same things.

And perhaps Bob Matheeney is just as wonderful artists as John Baldessari, but because he was humble because he stayed in San Diego because he never took things right. Too seriously. He was also easy for people to dismiss foreign. In 1929 Mathenia his career spanned a major transformation in modern art.

As well as the transformation of San Diego in the 1950s he was already experimenting and collaborating with others in the region like Richard Allen Morris and John Baldessari. When the new Mathenia instigated art gallery at Southwestern opened in 1961 the town was still very much living in the shadow of the Navy.

Matheeney, in fact, worked in the aerospace defense field in the art department of general dynamics and his graphic design and the tactile skills associated with being a working designer bled into his work to you with his deaf touch, with a letter press Matheeney could create elaborate posters for art shows around town.

Hampton said, these posters became terrific art pieces as well as a historic archive of who was doing what in San Diego at the time. But what stands out the most in Matini's work and life is the way he kept a sense of humor. The idea that his art was and is still considered important, would be the kind of thing Matheeney might scoff at.

Never wanted to take art too seriously. Many of his projects were a delightful brew of absurd as commentary, joke and practicality. Sometimes it's work involved, everyday objects. The blending of the mundane and the fine Bob's work almost always involved. Some degree of humor. Humor is very tricky to handle in artwork because it allows the observer.

To potentially not take it seriously. Right? It's not a great, massive Rodin sculpture. Humor can be really tricky. Bob did it very, very well. Take the art disposal service project, for example, brought to San Diego by a Matheeney in the late 1960s the art disposal service was intended to get rid of all that pesky unwanted art.

Well, Matheeney really did create immense volumes of art. What the art disposal service did was remind people that the best way to enjoy art is to take it down a notch or two. No. Bob was a really wonderful artist and important, so critically important to our contemporary art scene, but because he was kind of just a regular guy at the same time, I think he, he could be dismissed.

And it is true that I think his work changed in the latter years of his life. But he was still producing. He was making stuff constantly. He had that full blown disease of art making. He could not not make art.

And that was art curator Dave Hampton talking with KPBS arts calendar editor and producer Julia Dixon Evans.

I’m gonna miss Bob Matheny and his emails. The last one he sent out was in April, and, among other things, was an update on his sparkle art adventures.

Rest in Peace, Bob.

San Diego News Matters podcast branding

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.