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Lawmakers Push For Statewide Reopening Of Playgrounds

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A playground is unused and closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Mission Bay Park, July 3, 2020.

ALEXANDER NGUYEN

Some Lawmakers in California are questioning why Gov. Gavin Newsom has not yet opened playgrounds in the state. Also,key findings from a statewide survey by the Public Policy Institute of California show Californians are divided on changing California’s landmark tax reform initiative, Proposition 13, and so far they don't favor bringing affirmative action back to California. Plus, misinformation went viral about California’s SB 145, which would change who gets added to the state’s sex offender’s registry. Top local officials, including Mayor Kevin Faulconer and City councilmember Barbara Bry, repeated some of the misinformation publicly. We’ll have a full fact check on it.

California Lawmakers are pushing Governor Gavin Newsom to reopen public playgrounds. Last week KPBS looked into why playgrounds are still closed by COVID-19 restrictions, while other family activities are open.

Since then, San Diego assemblywoman Lorena Gonzales has written two letters asking the governor for state guidance on reopening outdoor playgrounds and state park amenities. Her most recent letter got 23 signatures of support from lawmakers in both parties.

"We're not saying necessarily open up every playground, we're saying what is the protocol necessary and when can we look forward to this. It just doesn't seem like there is any guidance and so that doesn't seem an acceptable way to go forward. "

So far there's been no response from the governor's office. Gonzales and the other lawmakers plan to follow up in another week.

County health officials reported six new community outbreaks on thursday. In total, 20 outbreaks have been confirmed within the past week. According to city news service, the county will find out early next week if we’ll be placed into the “purple tier” of the state’s coronavirus rating system. We’re in the red tier for now. Purple is the most restrictive and would mandate closure of most indoor activities, like gyms, and houses of worship.

Earlier this week, county supervisors asked the state to exclude the 700 covid-19 cases at San Diego State university from the county’s overall metrics. But the state said no. Last night, County supervisors met in closed session to discuss next steps, but no decision was announced.

Proposition 16 on this year’s ballot, would change current laws to allow race and racial diversity to be used as a factor in hiring and college admissions…In other words, it would bring back affirmative action.

According to a recent poll...less than a third of those surveyed said they would vote yes.

Mark Baldassare is with the Public Policy Institute, who conducted the poll.

"I think that a lot of voters don't understand what a yes vote might mean and that means that the proponents have a lot of work to do to explain why it is that the legislature placed this on the ballot."

Also on the ballot is a proposition that would change how commercial property is taxed, by basing the tax rate on current market value instead of purchase price. About half of respondents said they favored this one, known as Proposition 15.

It’s Friday, September 18th.. This is San Diego News Matters from KPBS News...a daily morning news podcast powered by everyone in the KPBS Newsroom. I’m Anica Colbert. Stay with me for more of the local news you need to start your day.

Oceanside’s major water reclamation project is getting financial support from the Environmental Protection Agency. KPBS’ Erik Anderson reports.

The EPA loaning Oceanside nearly 70 million dollars to help
finance the city’s water reuse plans. The San Diego County city currently
imports most of its water from the Sacramento Bay Delta and the Colorado River.
Water engineer Lindsey Laehy says the federal help for the 158 million dollar
project will ultimately help Oceanside generate three to five million gallons of
drinking water a day.
“We will be reusing the recycled water that we would normally discharge into the ocean. Put it through and extensive and high quality treatment process and then be able to distribute it to the city as a local source of drinking water. City officials say the treated wastewater will be pumped into an underground aquifer and the water will be treated again when it is drawn out.
Erik Anderson KPBS News

UC San Diego has recruited patients for a trial of early-stage covid-19 treatments. It’s part of a worldwide trial being done under the supervision of the National Institutes of Health.

KPBS science and technology reporter Shalina Chatlani spoke to the local scientists who are doing it.

A nurse at UCSD's Antiviral Research Center in Hillcrest zips open a large white tent on campus. Inside is a chair, where infected covid-19 patients in San Diego will receive virus-specific drugs in a clinical trial known as ACTIV-2.
Dr. Davey Smith, virologist at UC San Diego, is the principal investigator for this first of its kind worldwide outpatient clinical trial out of the National Institutes of Health.
SMITH: The first studies that happened were very much about keeping people from dying once they get into the hospital. This one is about keeping people out of the hospital.
Smith said one of the therapies being tested is a unique synthetic antibody created specifically to attack the coronavirus. UCSD physician Dr. Constance Benson who's also heading the study has already spearheaded a global HIV research network. She says worldwide efforts are always challenging.
BENSON: There's a lot of pressure on all of the investigators and all of the sites to enroll people as quickly as we can so we can have answers for these things fast.
Both Smith and Benson say this type of trial is necessary to find therapies for patients that are in the beginning stages of infection. Shalina Chatlani, KPBS news.

The pandemic has changed how the Red Cross helps people during wildfires. The recent Valley Fire showed how that help is also more expensive too.

KPBS’ John Carroll reports.

Before the pandemic, the Red Cross would typically set up evacuation shelters in nearby schools… think lots of cots filling gyms. But now, because of physical distancing, they've had to turn to hotels… in the case of the Valley Fire, finding rooms for 174 families, 440 people. Red Cross southern California regional CEO Sean Mahoney says that meant thousands of dollars in additional costs.
"We try to negotiate the best rate at those 11 different hotels. We are gonna do our best to try and get some kind of reimbursement for that, but in the meantime, we have to pay for those hotel bills."
One thing that hasn't changed is the indispensable role played by Red Cross volunteers. Mahoney says during the Valley Fire, they dropped whatever they were doing… on Labor Day weekend and showed up to help. JC, KPBS News.

A measure on this year’s ballot would exempt gig companies from a law that makes it harder to classify workers as independent contractors.

CapRadio’s Scott Rodd reports.

Akamine Kiarie started driving for Lyft in Sacramento because the flexibility allows him to balance college classes with earning a living.
KIARIE-1: “I was able to prioritize my education, put it first. I could build my work around my school work.”
That’s why he supports Proposition 22. The measure would allow gig companies to classify their workers as contractors...as opposed to employees...which would help preserve that flexibility.
In exchange the ballot measure would require gig companies to provide certain benefits to drivers. They would be guaranteed a minimum wage and healthcare subsidies, if they clock enough hours on the road. The companies would also cover vehicle insurance and provide safety training.
Steve Smith is with the California Labor Federation and the No On Prop 22 Campaign. He says the new benefits are not enough, and that drivers would still be exploited by the multi-billion dollar companies.
SMITH-1: “We’ve got about 800,000 workers in the gig economy that would be affected by Prop 22. They should get workers comp if they’re injured. They should in fact get unemployment insurance if they’re laid off.”
Uber and Lyft have previously threatened to leave California if they are forced to classify their drivers as employees....as required under the law AB5, which passed last year.
So far a handful of gig companies have spent over $180 million in support of the measure.

Misinformation and outright lies have been swirling around a new law regarding the state's sex offender registry. Governor Gavin Newsom signed the bill into law last week. Now, the misinformation has seeped into the race for San Diego Mayor.

KPBS Metro Reporter Andrew Bowen has this fact check.

AB: SB 145 deals with statutory rape and California's sex offender registry. Current law treats people convicted of sex with a minor differently depending on the sexual act and whether the perpetrator is gay or straight. In cases of heterosexual intercourse, a judge can decide whether to place the perpetrator on the sex offender registry. Judge's don't have that discretion in cases of same-sex sexual activity. SB 145 changes that, allowing judges to decide whether registration is warranted regardless of the sex act or gender of the two people involved. The bill was supported by California's police chiefs and district attorneys. But the community of far-right conspiracy theorists called QAnon started spreading the lie that the bill legalized pedophilia. This week, both Mayor Kevin Faulconer and City Councilmember Barbara Bry, who's running to succeed Faulconer, repeated a falsehood that is similar but not identical to the QAnon conspiracy theory. Here they are speaking on KUSI.
"To say under any circumstances that you could have a 24-year-old adult with a 14-year-old and call that consensual, that's just crazy. That defies logic."
"Listen, I'm a mom and there's no case in which there is consensual sex between a 14-year-old and a 24-year-old, whether it's gay sex, straight sex. It is not consensual."
AB: Here's what's false and misleading about those statements: SB 145 makes absolutely no changes to California's age of consent. It's still illegal for a 24-year-old to have sex with a 14-year-old. It's also still illegal for an 18-year-old to have sex with a 17-year-old. But if that 18-year-old and 17-year-old are both gay males, right now a judge would have no choice but to place the 18-year-old on the same sex offender registry as a child rapist. Under SB 145, that judge can still punish the 18-year-old with jail time and fines. But the judge can also look at the circumstances and decide whether the person deserves to be put on the sex offender registry. Councilmember Bry has attacked her opponent in the race, Assemblymember Todd Gloria, for voting in favor of SB 145. Gloria also went on KUSI to defend his vote.
TG: Again, this was done at the request of law enforcement and with their support. I will always stand up for protecting our children, and that's why I supported the bill, because you had law enforcement standing squarely behind it saying that they felt that this was in the interest of public safety.
AB: Bry, Faulconer and other opponents of SB 145 have suggested a better fix to the inequity in the law would be to remove judicial discretion all together and place any adult who has sex with a minor on the registry. But California already has the nation's largest sex offender registry — and experts say this creates problems for law enforcement. The California Sex Offender Management Board, which advises the state on sex offender laws, has long advocated for a more individualized approach to who should be on the registry and for how long. Here's Janet Neely, former chair of the state's Sex Offender Risk Assessment Committee, and Tom Tobin of the California Coalition on Sexual Offending.
JN: Research, both in California and nationally, shows that the majority of sex offenders once they've been caught and punished for their offense are very unlikely to commit another sex crime.
TT: We do know that some of them do, but we know that most of them don't. And proceeding as though all of them will lead us in a very unhelpful direction.
AB: Unhelpful because law enforcement has limited resources and struggles to manage the sex offender registry when it's full of people who pose a low risk of recidivism. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news.

That was KPBS Metro reporter Andrew Bowen

Coming up on the podcast, writer and performer Herbert Siguenza reveals that from the age of seven he’s been obsessed with artist Pablo Picasso.

HERBERT SIGUENZA: And I told my mom, when I grew up, mom, I want to be like this little old man. And she says, oh, no, he's he's Picasso. He's crazy.

Now it’s a play and a movie at San Diego Repertory Theater. That’s next, after this.

San Diego Repertory theatre has had to move productions online because of COVID-19. But for “A Weekend With Picasso” they decided to do more than just film a stage production, they decided to make what they call a feature film adapted from the stage play.

KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando has this preview.

You could say a trip to the dentist changed Herbert Siguenza's life when he was seven.
HERBERT SIGUENZA: And in the waiting room I picked up a book by Douglas Duncan of photographs called A The Private Life of Picasso. and I was so impressed by this old man at 76 that painted wildly like a child… And I told my mom, you know, when I grew up, mom, I want to be like this. And she says, oh, no, he's he's Picasso. He's crazy.
Siguenza had to wait until he turned 50 ten years ago to fulfill his dream of becoming Picasso by writing the play A Weekend With Pablo Picasso for San Diego Rep. Not only had he become old enough to play the part but he had also grown to appreciate Picasso as a complex person.
HERBERT SIGUENZA: I'm a political artist. My work is always been about social justice. It's always been socially based. And, you know, Picasso, he was also an activist… he produced one of the most horrifying political statements ever, which is the painting Guernica, right… So he knew how to be a political artist. I don't think you want to be…And that's kind of what my philosophy of art is. It's not that I want to be a political artist. I just cannot sit around and not talk about what's going on in the country as it burns.
Siguenza picks a moment in time when Picasso was already famous and was troubled by the Soviet invasion of Hungary.
HERBERT SIGUENZA: And so my play is about how does how does a superstar artist that has it all, how can they still be political? How can they still react to something that's going on in the world?
Director Todd Salovey has been with Siguenza and Picasso on this ten-year journey.
TODD SALOVEY: Picasso is about the importance of making art… he knows as an artist he has to do something, but he doesn't know what to do… it's really about creativity and about how to respond to life and the events of our world in an artistic and creative way.
CLIP What do you think an artist is… he is a political being, constantly alert to the horrors around him.
This description of the artist's role resonates today says Salovey.
TODD SALOVEY: To me, it lands like it never has before because the questions are fresher and more relevant than ever before. And the medium is one where we feel you speak speaking to us more personally than ever before.
For the more intimate film adaptation, Salovey co-directed with Tim Powell.
TODD SALOVEY: He brings a visual look to it where there is layers of imagery. You're looking at a scene through Picasso's pink brushes, which is just amazing… And here I've always said this play is a cubist portrait of Picasso, where we're seeing him at the same time from multiple angles. Well, the camera can literally do that.
For Siguenza it required a different set of acting skills and a toning down of the more flamboyant strokes of his stage performance.
HERBERT SIGUENZA: What I like about the movie is that it's much more intimate. You know, you're close up. You're really seeing what Picasso was thinking about and suffering about much more than in the play.
And unlike a play, a film can live on forever. That thrills Siguenza who has been obsessed his whole life with Picasso and what he stands for.
HERBERT SIGUENZA: He's basically telling you if you want to be an artist, if you want to be a real artist, you have to create every day, every hour, at least think about it, you know, because otherwise you're not an artist.
Spend a Weekend with Picasso and Siguenza and you can't help but feel inspired to do something creative.

That was KPBS Arts Reporter, Beth Accomando. San Diego Rep's A Weekend With Picasso is available on their website today through October 14. That’s it for our podcast today, thanks for listening and have a great weeekend.

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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.