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Protesters Rally For More Local Control Over COVID Restrictions

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Supervisor Jim Desmond, business owners and supporters rally in front of the San Diego County Administration Center on Sept. 21, 2020, calling for more local control over businesses reopening during the pandemic and rejecting Gov. Gavin Newsom's color-coded four-tier reopening plan.

MATT HOFFMAN

The county awaits data from the state which could potentially place San Diego in California's most restrictive coronavirus tier. Meanwhile some residents and business owners want more local say over those restrictions. Also, an inmate is on the verge of death as one of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks in the federal prison system continues to play out in downtown San Diego. Plus, a newly introduced bill would make sexual harassment a crime under military law. The measure is a response to the killing of Fort Hood Army soldier Vanessa Guillen this summer.

San Diego could be placed in the state's most restrictive coronavirus tier by the end of the week. That’s according to data expected today from state public health officials. County supervisor Nathan Fletcher is urging San Diegans to respect any new business closures that may come down from the state.

"Right now in San Diego County we need to focus our efforts on battling COVID and not seek out distractions and excuses to deflect us from the difficult work we need to do."

Fletcher criticized colleagues who are focused on fighting with the state over whether 700 cases from San Diego state university students should be considered in the total count County supervisors met again last night in a closed session meeting….to discuss their response should the state impose more severe restrictions. But no conclusion was reached.

Jeff Kasha [KASHA] is the owner of Rudford's restaurant He joined supervisor Jim Desmond during a rally before yesterday's meeting calling for more local control. Kasha says if he's forced to shut his indoor operations this week he may defy the orders.

We don't have a choice about not closing you know retaining the employees we've ran out of PPE money we're into our savings, we've over spent we've made no money since march 16 (:15)

Going to the purple tier would mean restaurants, churches, gyms, and personal care business would have to stop indoor operations completely.

California is not accepting new unemployment claims over the next two weeks.
The Governor says the state's employment development department will be putting in new fraud prevention technology, while they work to clear a backlog in claims. The reset period will end on October 5th. After that, the state will begin using new automatic i-d verification software and will process backlogged claims over the next 90 to 100 days.

It’s Tuesday, September 22nd. This is San Diego News Matters from KPBS News...a daily morning news podcast powered by all of everyone in the KPBS Newsroom. I’m Anica Colbert. Stay with me for more of the local news you need to start your day.

The city of San Diego's chief operating officer is resigning.

KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen says her departure comes amid a growing scandal surrounding a disastrous real estate deal.

AB: Kris Michell announced her resignation in an email to city employees on Monday, and she didn't explain her decision. But Michell has been a key decision maker in how the city has handled 101 Ash Street. The city signed a 20-year lease-to-own deal on the downtown high-rise in 2016, only to discover millions in renovation needs. The deal predated Michell's hiring, but it was under her watch that the project's cost exploded. She also moved city employees into the building, only to evacuate them a month later due to asbestos. It's unclear when her position will be filled, since Mayor Kevin Faulconer will be replaced by a newly elected mayor in less than three months. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news.

An inmate is on the verge of death as one of the largest COVID outbreaks in the federal prison system continues to play out in Downtown San Diego. The inmate's attorney claims lax precautions by the Bureau of Prisons could have contributed to the situation.

KPBS’ Max Rivlin-Nadler reports.

Victor Cruz, who's serving an eight-year sentence for drug possession, was on the verge of death Monday afternoon. The 47-year-old was diagnosed with COVID-19 while at the Metropolitan Correctional Center last month.
Cruz is one of 196 positive cases of coronavirus at the facility. It's one of the largest active outbreaks in the federal system.
Sandra Lechman was Cruz's attorney for his criminal case.
In a motion filed Monday, Lechman says that another of her clients might be the person who started the outbreak at MCC.
She says that client was taken to a local hospital for a routine medical procedure, even after the hospital told MCC not to bring them. According to the filing, her client got COVID-19 while at the hospital on August 18th, and then brought it back to MCC.
He was taken back and he was just mixed with his floor as if he had never left the facility. As far as I know, no safety precautions were taken.
The Bureau of prisons and MCC's legal counsel did not respond to a request for comment.
Max Rivlin-Nadler, KPBS News

If you've ever driven State Route 52 between the 163 and the 805, you know it can feel like a rollercoaster. But KPBS reporter John Carroll says Caltrans is trying a new way to fix the highway. And they hope the new method will keep it smooth for years to come.

A little more than a mile of SR-52 was built over a landfill, so it's been in a constant state of settling for decades. Caltrans has smoothed it out over and over, but none of those fixes have solved the problem long-term. Now, they're trying something different. It's called compaction grouting. The process involves drilling more than four-thousand holes, each six-inches in diameter. Caltrans engineer Shawn Rizzutto says pipes are then put into the holes…
"And then we start pumping grout or cement and sand and we create these grout columns which stiffen the roadbed… and it doesn't allow for as much settlement."
The 16-million dollar project is expected to be complete by Christmas. Rizzutto says they tried the same method on a smaller section of SR-52 nearly four years ago and it's held up well. They hope this much larger project will make the SR52 rollercoaster history, for good. JC, KPBS News.

A luxury high-rise apartment complex in downtown San Diego has become known for its wild house parties since stay at home orders were relaxed.

Inewsource investigative reporter Cody Dulaney has more.

DULANEY: Since May, calls to police about parties and other disturbances at Pinnacle on the Park have increased sixfold compared to last year. Here's what it sounded like outside the East Village high-rise on a recent Friday night.
DULANEY: Dozens of the units are rented on Airbnb and other sites. That's not illegal. But the debauchery that follows is causing problems.
Robyn Spencer lives in the complex with her 12-year-old son.
SPENCER: "They shoot off fireworks from their balcony. They spit from the balcony. They throw glasses off the balcony. They have sex on the balconies and drop their condoms off the side.
DULANEY: The high-rise is also home to wealthy and low-income renters. Carlos Garcia used to live in the affordable housing section with his wife and three children. He moved out last month to escape.
GARCIA: "It's totally out of control, man. I mean it's out of control really."
DULANEY: San Diego police say there are active criminal investigations at the high-rise. Pinnacle on the Park didn't respond to requests for comment.

That was Inewsource investigative reporter Cody Dulaney. Inewsource is an independently funded, nonprofit partner of KPBS.

More undocumented immigrants in California are now eligible for a tax credit from the state. KQED's Katie Orr reports on a bill just signed into law.

A bill recently introduced in Congress would make sexual harassment a crime under military law. The measure is a response to the killing of Fort Hood Army soldier Vanessa Guillen [Notes:GHEE un] this summer. Supporters hope the legislation will prevent more violent offenses--and force a military culture shift.

Carson Frame reports for the American Homefront Project.

The family of slain Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen stood before the Capitol stony-faced and resolute, ready, after months of battling the Army for answers about how it handled its investigation into the 20-year-old's case.
Before Guillen went missing in April, she told her mother she was being sexually harassed by a fellow soldier...but was afraid to report it. Officials later discovered she'd been killed in an armory on post, then dismembered. The suspect later killed himself.
Guillen's 16 year-old sister Lupe said the Army failed to protect her, and kept their family in the dark about what was going on.
LUPE: It's disgusting how a piece of armor goes missing and they do everything to find it. But when it comes to a life like Vanessa's, they do nothing. A life is more valuable than an object. Life happens once, and there's no going back.
Surrounded by Guillen's sisters and her parents, California Democrat Jackie Speier unveiled the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act. It's a long-awaited bill that defines sexual harassment and makes it a crime in the military.
SPEIER: The Pentagon's own reports tell us that sexual harassment creates an environment that makes sexual assault more likely. This culture is broken. The rot has festered for generations. And the data proves what survivors have been telling us for years: What we have been doing is not working.
Advocates and victims have long called for stronger action against sexual harassment and assault in the ranks.
Under the current system, servicemembers who grope, cat-call, or create hostile work environments often don't face punishment. And when they do, it's usually a slap on the wrist without any lasting effect on their career.
DANIS: they may get a write up in their file, but that may go away after a year. So down the road, if they continue this behavior. They may do it to somebody else somewhere else on the installation or in their next assignment... So the next assignment doesn't know they did it.
That's Diana Danis, an adviser with the Women Veterans Social Justice Network. She says making harassment a formal crime will lead to more punishments, AND more victims coming forward with reports. But, perhaps most importantly, it could discourage offenders from committing more violent acts, like rape.
DANIS: So sexual harassment is a lead up, because these are crimes of power and control in an environment that prides itself on good order and discipline, and good order and discipline very often takes advantage of vulnerable people between the ages of 18 and 24, which is the predominant age of people in the military.
The bill also would take away commanders' authority to make prosecution decisions in cases of sexual harassment and assault. Right now, they have a lot of discretion over how those cases are dealt with.
But that can create problems - especially when a victim is abused by someone higher up the chain of command. In a recent Pentagon survey, 64% of women who reported a sexual assault say they faced retaliation or backlash - most often from their superiors.
Deshauna Barber is the CEO of Service Women's Action Network.
BARBER: You have, you know, cliques and groups of people that socialize with one another. And sometimes that does include people as part of a chain of command... what if it is your commander or your xo of the unit, what if it is your platoon leader? Your platoon sergeant? you're reporting to the person that's harassing you.
Under the legislation, sexual harassment and assault complaints would go before each service's Chief Prosecutor for review. And in the future, each military branch would be required to create a special legal office for handling and investigating those crimes.
It's the latest in a long line of bills to try to change the military's legal structure. But as recently as July, military brass have pushed back, arguing for the integrity of the chain of command.
This is Carson Frame reporting.

That was Carson Frame, reporting. This story was produced by the American Homefront Project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans. Funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Coming up on the podcast….

A conversation about being a journalist in 2020 with San Diego Union-Tribune’s editorial and opinion director, Matt Hall. That’s up next, after this.

..........

Telling the story of 2020 hasn’t been easy. Journalists are covering a highly polarized election, clashing with law enforcement, and trying to overcome misinformation campaigns. And of course, all of this during a pandemic that’s led to even more job cuts in the industry, and most people working from home.

To talk about all this, KPBS Roundtable Host Mark Sauer sat down with San Diego Union-Tribune editorial and opinion director Matt Hall, who is also, as of this month, the new President-elect of the Society of Professional Journalists. Here’s that Interview…..

Well, let's start with your new role for those who don't follow the industry. What is the society of professional journalists? And what's your top goal is you're prepared to lead this national organization.

Speaker 3: 01:38 Yeah, thanks for asking. I mean, SPJ is an organization that has been around since 1909. So it has a long history on the a hundred and fourth president. There's 103 whose shoulders I stand on in this role. And we're a national advocacy group. You know, we celebrate, uh, journalism, we advocate for journalists, uh, and we hold the powerful to account, right? So we're advocating for things like audio at the Supreme court, at their hearings, helping PIOs do a better job at giving information out, especially in this pandemic, you know, and, and we're a to Z, we're a shop that helps do a lot of things for journalism as president my, my big goal this year, I guess there's a couple that I want to do. I want to, I think this is a moment where journalists need to look internally at their shops at their outlets and make sure that they reflect their communities.

Speaker 3: 02:28 Diversity inclusion has always been important, but in this moment, that's something that I really want to bring to the fore. And I also want to reach out to our campus chapters and our young journalists, like before I was sworn in, uh, I said on Twitter, look, I'm getting sworn in as president of this, of this group. And I'm really excited about it. I want to pay it forward. If there's 10 people out there, I want to go to art con convention, I'll pay for their convention costs. Uh, and within 48 hours, 10 journalists had raised their hand, mostly women, mostly journalists of color. And so I, I, I sponsored their conferences and they all said it was amazing. So this is also a time for journalists to help other journalists, younger journalists, especially

Speaker 1: 03:05 I'll raise my hand. You can fly me first class. I'll get a nice hotel. So well, I'll tell you what, we don't have time today to cover all the challenges in the media. But in recent days, we've seen clear examples. Let's start with the incident last weekend in Compton, just North of here, where Josie Wang, a LA based public media reporter, she was violently attacked and arrested while covering the shooting of two Sheriff's deputies up there. How does an organization like SPJ advocate broadly for media rights stand up for reporters and an incident?

Speaker 3: 03:34 Yeah, I was actually online when the first video of that incident came in. And so I personally started tweeting at, uh, LA County sheriffs saying, you know, this is, we need a better explanation. Obviously that situation was involved in unfolding quickly. What happened to those deputies was horrific, but that's no excuse to throw a journalist around like a ragdoll. She was whipped against the car and thrown on the ground. Five deputies were on top of her all the while, as you just said, she was saying, I'm a journalist KPCC I think she mentioned the organization about eight times, you know, we're here to support her. We're here to say that that is wrong and that the Sheriff's need to be held accountable. And we're here to stand up for all journalists. You know, we're doing law enforcement has a job to do. We respect that. We understand that, but we have a job to do as well.

Speaker 1: 04:20 Well, it's good. SPJ is there for that because, uh, these days, and of course at any time, the first amendment is so critical and we've seen a lot of this during protests over the summers. They're concerned of a trend toward law enforcement disregarding first amendment rights when it comes to the meeting.

Speaker 3: 04:36 I don't know if it's a trend. I mean, this has always been a point of friction. I mean the two of us have different jobs. I think what's happening now is you're actually seeing a reckoning in media that the default story and an issue involving police should not be the police version. I think partly that that should have always been the case, but partly police departments have invited them that on themselves. And that trust is an issue. Not only for the media, we've made some major self inflicted wounds and we need to account for that is correct our mistakes when they happen, but law enforcement has done that as well. And so now when you have an incident, journalists need to not just take the police view as the default, but hold up, uh, everyone equally and make sure we get to the heart of the matter and the truth of the matter.

Speaker 1: 05:22 Now we're less than 50 days from the selection, which certainly is an underlying current, uh, everything we're talking about here 2016 was a year of misinformation online that shaped the opinion of a lot of voters. In this week. We saw a one day boycott of Facebook heavily criticized for not doing enough to rein it in how big of a challenge is misinformation and trust when it comes to having an informed public and a healthy demand.

Speaker 3: 05:44 Oh, it's huge. I went, uh, virtually and gave a presentation on fake news, real problem for an eighth grade humanities class at golden Hill. Um, this is an important thing that journalists need to realize. It's a huge, it was a problem in 2016, it's only worse. Now journalists need to be aware of this and the public needs to be aware of this. And it's not just misinformation this year. I think an important point that needs to be made is that with the pandemic and voting happening many places largely by mail, that that means there is no such thing as election day. That's a misnomer, it's a month to vote and it could be weeks to count the votes. And so journalists need to do a better job of explaining that to the public, explaining that you'll be getting a mail ballot 30 days before the election, and that you need to take that seriously. And the mail delivery will be fine, but we all know that the mail delivery is a little slow right now. So if you really want to get your vote counted, maybe vote early and maybe even take it to one of these places where you can drop it off through the County registrar system.

Speaker 1: 06:41 I think that's a critical point, especially when president Trump and the attorney general bill BARR, frankly, are trying to cast aspersions on mail and balloting and claiming it's fraudulent when it isn't. And we need to point that out,

Speaker 3: 06:53 No, no widespread fraud in any shape or fashion. Uh, and in fact there are whole States that do it and have done it successfully.

Speaker 1: 06:58 Yeah. And the polls today say a lot of Republicans, unfortunately are believing there is. And it's a real problem. It's up to us to cover that going forward. Well, the misinformation theme it's of course a part of this pandemic that we're dealing with. What do you hear from journalists about audience that, that refuse to believe facts and science?

Speaker 3: 07:14 You know, it's a, it's a problem. And I think there, again, you just need to do your job and you do the work and push back. Like at that class that I was at a bunch of eighth graders in a, you know, in a chat, in a zoom call, you can imagine that it wasn't all serious, that they're making some quips in there. And one of them said, it's okay, COVID isn't real. And I stopped my presentation. I'm like, wait, wait, wait, no, no, no, no. You need to understand that the COVID-19 Israel, that 200,000 Americans have died, but the multiple factors more are going to have potentially longterm health implications for heart and lungs, et cetera. And so this is a real situation here. You know, young people may not have the same risk in terms of potential loss of life as, uh, certainly older folks. But as we saw from San Diego state, it only takes a few people making bad decisions to really cause problems for our community.

Speaker 1: 08:01 Yeah. Ripple effect throughout San Diego. Now COVID-19 also brought the worst economic crisis in our lifetimes. How's the pandemic shaking up newsrooms and many of which were already being cut to the bone before this.

Speaker 3: 08:13 Yeah. It's been brutal. I mean, you know, I'll be honest and a tough at the union Tribune we had across the board for lows, you know, but we kept working, we kept working through it. We've been for six months putting out a newspaper at homes. I think I've been in the office two or three times in that span. And it's weird to go into a ghost building. I kind of don't know if we'll ever go back, but the union Tribune is here to put up the news. Uh, KPBS is here to put out the news voices, San Diego and the television stations are here to put out the news and they're doing it in, in, in very difficult situations, either from home or going out on the streets to cover, uh, you know, pandemic related events or protests wearing masks, taking care of themselves. But it's hard, you know, it's hard, man, that the mental toll is, is difficult. Remember, as, as we all

Speaker 1: 08:56 Know, you and I have been in newsrooms for a lot of years, it's a collaborative effort. You feed off the energy of each other and it's tough to do it as individuals. And there's a personal toll to covering the news, especially in 2020. What do you hear from your colleagues remotely at the UT and elsewhere about burnout and the weight of these challenges?

Speaker 3: 09:12 Huge issue. I mean, I referenced the conference that we just had this past weekend at SPJ one of the panels involved with Southern California, dr. Tammy McCoy, or a bio who's, a therapist who works with first responders and has helped people really troubling, uh, emotional times, you know, and she said, it's okay to not to realize that it's not okay right now. So to, you know, and also to take a break, if you can take a day, take a day, if you can take half a day, take half a day. The problem for us in the news business is that many of us are plugged into it, you know, 6:00 AM to midnight, sometimes past midnight. So, you know, there are many days where I personally, aren't getting, I'm not getting a lot of sleep. I know a lot of my colleagues are putting out podcasts under blankets and in closets, you know, working from home with when there's an occasional wifi outage, uh, it's difficult, it's difficult.

Speaker 3: 09:59 And we can't get together for a beer and, and, and complain about it, you know, but I think, you know, my team is doing amazing work. My, my peers at the UT and around San Diego and the country are doing incredible, incredible work at difficult times. And I'm just grateful for their work. We're, we're kind of first responders in a way to not to compare us to some of these other frontline workers that are doing incredible work from grocery workers to police officers and firefighters. But the news business is, is, and it's taken some blows during this, but it's really trying to get the real dope straight information to people at an important time.

Speaker 1: 10:31 Absolutely is critical. And it's important for SPJ to be there and, and, and pushing all of this and protecting, uh, everybody's first amendment rights and our democracy as well.

Speaker 3: 10:40 Yeah. I mean, I often say a free press. Isn't free journalism costs money, but less journalism costs society. And, you know, that means that this isn't a time for us to be asking people, to pay for subscriptions. It's a time for us to be explained to them that they are members like KPBS model, the voice, San Diego, Mara. Those are good models because they're building memberships and communities. And I think all news outlets need to be doing that. That's the way forward here is that we're in this together, you help local news outlets.

That was Matt Hall, the editorial and opinion director of the San Diego Union Tribune, speaking with KPBS Roundtable Host Mark Sauer. That’s it for the podcast today, thanks for listening!

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