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Need for Food Assistance Has Skyrocketed In San Diego Communities

 September 14, 2020 at 4:58 AM PDT

A postcard sent out by the US Postal Service is causing confusion among those who want to vote by mail in California. CapRadio's PolitiFact California reporter Chris Nichols explains that the Postal Service postcard urges American to request their mail in ballots at least 15 days before Election day. That's good advice in some states. But in California, it's causing confusion. That's because a new state law requires counties to automatically send all active, registered voters a mail-in ballot. Ballots will be sent out automatically the first week of October. Voters should check their voter registration status, but they do not need to request a mail-in ballot. We reported recently about a North Park Community Fridge. It was meant as a way to provide food assistance to people in the community in need. But the business owner supplying the power for the fridge was threatened with eviction from his landlord. The fridge was then removed. After our story, St. Luke's Episcopal Church in North Park contacted KPBS to let us, and our audience know, there was still a place to get local food assistance in North Park. It's a collaboration between the church, the Uptown Community Center and the San Diego Food Bank. Uptown's executive director Alisan Rowland says the need for food assistance has skyrocketed since the pandemic started. "The idea is to work with the San Diego Food Bank and provide a greater amount of food to people who are in need right now because of Covid 19." Food is available at drive-thru events on Mondays and Wednesdays, and on the church patio on Thursdays. Chula Vista City officials say they’ve closed down dozens of illegal cannabis operations. For months,. City officials have struggled with stopping those operations. Police would close one illegal dispensary just for another to open up in a new location. Police say 30 illegal dispensaries have been shuttered in recent months. Chula Vista Police Lt. Dan Peak says criminal organizations are behind many of the operations. Various organized crime sources because those investigations are still on going I won't name those groups specifically but I can tell you there is organized crime backing that is behind these illegal operations (:13) Police have seized millions in cash and some guns from illegal dispensaries. They say the shops are a danger to the community...selling unregulated cannabis and sometimes selling it to minors. As part of an executive order signed by the White House, all federal workers will see their payroll taxes suspended, beginning this week. Kathi Bradshaw counsels military families on their finances for the Support the Enlisted Project. Her advice is to hold off spending the extra money and instead, pay down debt. "So it's going to feel great going into the holidays and then it's going to feel bad. So they have to make some choices on how they want to manage this." Normally, six percent is taken for Social Security. Come January to April 2021, that will be doubled to make up for what's been lost. The president said on Twitter that he will find the money if he is re-elected. Critics say he doesn't have the power to do that without Congress. On a Monday, September 14th, you’re listening to 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. Back in February, KPBS found a new political party in California was registering voters to their party without their knowledge or consent. Now, the party is suing the state to get on the November ballot, even though it hasn't collected enough signatures. KPBS’ Claire Trageser reports. KPBS talked to 31 people who were listed in San Diego County's voter registration rolls as members of the Common Sense Party. All but one of them said they had no idea they had signed up for the party. The findings led to calls for state and local investigations, but so far there have been no updates on the status of any inquiry. Now, backers of the Common Sense Party have sued the state, saying their party should still be on the ballot even though they did not collect the 68,000 signatures required. Tom Campbell, the interim chair of the party, says they had to stop signature gathering because of the coronavirus pandemic. "We said, no, it's dangerous, we're not going to put our circulators in harm's way, or ask our citizens who sign our registrations to be in harm's way." After KPBS's report, complaints about the party were referred to the District Attorney. A spokesman for the District Attorney declined to comment and said there were no updates on any potential investigation. Claire Trageser, KPBS News That was KPBS Investigative Reporter Claire Traegeser. A federal and state court rejected the party’s argument, but the party plans to appeal. They also want Governor Gavin Newsom to issue an executive order placing them on the ballot. NBC7 in San Diego is retracting a news story that claimed mayoral candidate Todd Gloria had a role in the botched city lease of a downtown highrise at 101 Ash Street. In 2016, the city signed a lease-to-own deal on the property that has turned into a money sink for taxpayers after the building was found to be contaminated with asbestos. The NBC7 story alleged lawyers hired by the city were investigating Assemblymember and mayoral candidate Todd Gloria's role in the deal. The station now says it was duped, and parts of the memo it based the story on were doctored. Gloria said Friday that his opponent in the mayor's race, City Councilmember Barbara Bry, exploited the false story by using it in Facebook ads. ASHSTREET 2A 0:10 She paid to reach hundreds of thousands of San Diegans to communicate a falsehood knowing that the source of the NBC7 story had been contested. Bry has removed the ads featuring the retracted story. But, she continues to attack Gloria for supporting the 101 Ash Street deal when he was on the city council. A state supreme court decision last week gave more hope to supporters of a convention center expansion in San Diego. That decision - about a San Francisco business tax - let an appellate court decision stand that ruled the tax was legal, even though it passed with a simple voter majority. Most taxes in California need to pass with a 2/3rds majority. But this supreme court decision calls that conventional wisdom into question. In San Diego, Measure C was aimed at boosting the hotel tax to pay for a convention center expansion. Last March, in the primary election, it got 65 percent of the vote. Now the California supreme court seems to be saying that tax measures brought by citizens groups, like Measure C, can pass with 50 percent of the vote plus one. They aren't subject to the same voter threshold as tax measures placed on the ballot by elected officials. More than three million acres burned so far this year in California, and the term "wildfire suppression" is often given as the main reason for why blazes get so big. CapRadio's Ezra David Romero explains the term has a long history. FIRESUPPRESSION 1 (1:42) A hundred years of suppression. That's quoted in so many stories about wildfire. It's because after the Great Fire of 1910, which burned 3 million acres of the West, putting fires out became the norm instead of letting them burn. "As a result the Forest Service put together a policy that all fires should be suppressed as quickly as possible." Susie Kocher is a forestry advisor for the UC system in Tahoe. She says the Forest Service started with the 10 a.m. policy. Which meant they should throw everything at it so that they could make sure it was out by 10 a.m. the next day." Kocher says there were many reasons for suppressing fires: a notion that fires were bad for the landscape, fear of losing trees to be logged and the loss of human life. But ecological historian Jared Dahl Aldern says the fires in the early 1900s were also the result of displacing Native Americans. "You are removing the people who had seasonal and multiyear rhythm, relationship with fire. That cycle was completely broken." This act of stopping forests from burning naturally every 10 years or so means a buildup today of trees, shrubs and grass. Which is part of why fires are so big now, says Michael Jones, a UC system forestry advisor in Sonoma. "We're still very much dictated by a suppression mindset. We don't know how to live with fire yet." Jones says new large fire scars on California are a chance for us to better know how to manage fires ... because more than 100 years later we're not just dealing with suppressing fires we're dealing with millions of people living in fire prone areas and climate change. In Sacramento, I'm Ezra David Romero. San Diego Zoo Global is shifting the focus of its conservation efforts. The multi-million dollar organization plans a more holistic approach by working directly with conservationists in the field, in Africa, to help threatened species. KPBS Environment Reporter Erik Anderson has our story. CONSERVATION (sea) soq 4:20 The San Diego Zoo Safari Park‘s herd of nine African elephants were already seeking out shade early one recent morning. “We’ve got zuli lying down in a big soft pile of dirt. Senior keeper Mindy Albright smiles as the youngest member of the herd tries to relax. “He’s had his morning breakfast. He just had some milk from his mom. And now its nap time, just like we would like to do right about now.” 2-year old Mkhaya lumbers over and sits on the smaller elephant. The herd clusters around the youngsters in a small spot of shade. “They’re touching each other. Their trunks are impacting the ground. They’re very sensitive with their skin, even though it’s thick and their feet, so they‘re feeling where they’re putting their body so they don’t step on zuli.” The elephants eventually leave this area and move to an adjacent compound. There, visitors can get a peak at these giant mammals as the pachyderms focus on finding and devouring the treats keepers left for them. They are also helping elephants thousands of miles away. For more than a year, Albright and her team collect milk from the lactating moms so the milk can be analyzed by researchers at UC San Diego. “Just like for humans when you first give birth the milk has a very specific make-up or composition about it. And the as the calf grows that milk formula is going to change.” Knowing the exact kind of milk to give an orphaned elephant calf, can be the difference between life and death. And the Reteti elephant sanctuary in Kenya depends on the information. As workers there mix formulas for orphaned calves. “They get a sick or injured animal and sometimes they don’t know how old it is. Because it could be mal nourished, weak. Maybe not demonstrating some of the developmental milestones that would give you an indication of age. It’s really critical that they know around what age that calf is so that they can determine what the milk formula is that they’re making.” Albright says elephant numbers are dwindling in the wild and research in San Diego could help. Nadine Lamberski is the Zoo’s new chief conservation officer. “Coexisting with wildlife helps the wildlife and it also helps the community.” She says the research on elephant milk in San Diego will have a tangible impact at Reteti. “This is the first community run elephant sanctuary in all of Africa. This is a facility that is completely staffed by folks that live in the community and they have lived amongst elephants their entire life. But that relationship hasn’t always been a positive one.” Lamberski says conservation allows the community to embrace the wildlife in their region instead of fighting against it. Cultivating that conservation ethos will in turn help create economic opportunities around the reserve and nearby community. ”We’re really trying to connect that work of saving species to increasing biodiversity which will really help our planet as a whole down the road.” The Zoo’s pivot is not an about face. Reachers to protect endangered species will continue, But Zoo president and CEO Paul Baribault says when the organization moves forward the focus will be more holistic. “Our goal is to take the care that we practice everyday protecting and maintaining wildlife and bring that to the field. To makes sure that we’re helping communities care for wildlife out in the wild.” Baribault does not expect an easy transition and he says there are unknowns as the organization decides where to put its resources. “How should we work with partners, how do we collaborate with communities on the ground, other NGO’s and its such an incredible comprehensive approach. That I looked at and said that’s how we needed to show up around the world, across all of our work including here in San Diego in our own back yard. Baribault wants the overall approach to the Zoo’s conservation initiatives to consider more than just the threatened species. He wants to integrate the Zoo’s animal care expertise with consideration of communities and habitats where those animals live. Erik Anderson KPBS News That was KPBS Environment Reporter Erik Anderson. Coming up on the podcast…. TZ FRONTERAS: "We see a lot of people registering now to help out with the Democrats Abroad organization in Mexico, and we attribute and thank Mr. Trump for all of this; of course now the goal is to get him out of office." From our reporting partners at KJZZ, we have a fronteras report on Americans voting while living in Mexico. That’s up next, after this. As November 3rd nears, millions of voters will be casting their votes by mail. Among them are many U.S. ex-patriots, living in Mexico. Expectations and hopes are high, exciting a new wave of voters to either vote Donald Trump out of office or to reelect him. From K-J-Z-Z's Mexico City Bureau, Rodrigo Cervantes [Notes:rod-REE-go sir-VAHN-tehs] brings us this Fronteras report. TRT: 04:05 I'm Rodrigo Cervantes in Mexico City CERVANTES: In Mexico, some might share the benevolent view that president Andrés Manuel López Obrador has of President Trump after making trade, security, oil and immigration agreements throughout his term and visiting him in Washington, D.C: AMLO: "...Y lo más importante: elogió a nuestros paisanos..." In what essentially is Mexico's State of the Union speech, López Obrador applauded Trump and said he has treated Mexico respectfully and, most importantly, has praised Mexicans living and working in the U.S. But others remember Trump from his rhetoric against Mexico, threatening to close trade, building a border wall and attacking Mexican immigrants, like in one of his most noticed 2016 campaign speeches: TRUMP: "They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." And among those paying close attention in Mexico to the re-election - or rejection - of Trump this year are more than a million people officially identified as American immigrants. One of them is Chris Lundry, professor of political science living in Mexico City. He finds it ironic that Mexico tends to be portrayed as dangerous in the U.S., while tons of American expats like him live, work and thrive in Mexico. Laundry is an Arizona voter and believes in the importance of his ballot. LUNDRY: "Arizona is a shifting state, with regards to politics, and so I like the fact that I maintain my registration in Arizona." The researcher arrived in Mexico in 2017. He's now in quarantine, expecting a child with his Mexican wife. According to data from the U.S. embassy, 10 percent of Americans have family ties with Mexico. One of the issues the professor has to address with Mexicans is how could someone receive more votes and still lose the election in the U.S., unlike the Mexican election system. LUNDRY: "And so I have to figure out a way to explain the sort of archaic system of the electoral college." Lundry says the relationship between López Obrador and Trump might seem a paradox but reflects the need to continue bilateral economic and political relations. Trade between both nations represents almost 2 billion dollars on a daily basis, according to U.S. data. But Lundry says Trump tends to be perceived as a racist, and his defeat could bring better agreements. LUNDRY: "Part of this election will be symbolic, and the symbolic element might be the most important part, at least, as people would perceive it here." Gricha Rather is president of Democrats Abroad in Mexico City. And he says he's noticed more U.S. immigrants interested in voting this year. RATHER: "We see a lot of people registering now to help out with the Democrats Abroad organization in Mexico, and we attribute and thank Mr. Trump for all of this; of course now the goal is to get him out of office." The Democrats in Mexico help U.S. immigrants vote and promote a non-partisan website where voters can register before ballots arrive by mid-September. RATHER: "It's one of the most screwed-up processes in terms of remote voting in the world, and people need help." Rather says the election itself will not be influenced by the relationship between the Mexican and U.S. presidents, but Mexico won't be a priority for the winning candidate because of many other problems, mainly domestic, that need to be solved. RATHER: "We need to make sure that we're not spending money on stupid walls or that we're separting families. These are the things that the U.S. will worry about when it comes to certain extent to part of the population in Mexico" Larry Rubin represents Republicans in Mexico. He says his party is also trying to attract the expat vote, particularly as they've seen a growing interest. RUBIN: "I've seen a lot more Republicans wanting to send out their vote more than the previous elections, and I think it's a testament to president Trump's stellar records in achieving a number of accomplishments." Rubin says the big difference between this election and the past one is that people already know how president Trump operates. He says Trump brings real honest politics and is tough, while making good agreements with Mexico. RUBIN: "I am sure that he is not a racist at all. I've had the opportunity to work closely with him and with the party, so I know the real president Trump." Rubin says Trump created closer ties to Mexico, unlike the Obama administration in which Trump's rival, Democrat Joe Biden, was vice president. The Obama administration was perceived as distant towards Mexico. Deportations of Mexican nationals reached one of its highest peaks in history, and cross-border crime investigations like operation Fast and Furious became a scandal. RUBIN: "At the end of the day, what I see of Joe Biden is he was the number two for eight years, and the relationship with Mexico could've not been colder." American voters in Mexico are required to deliver or mail their ballots to the U.S. Embassy or consulates, or even directly to the United States. Rodrigo Cervantes, KJZZ News, Mexico City That was Rodrigo Cervantes with our reporting partners at KJZZ News in Mexico City. That’s it for our podcast today, thanks for listening!

A confusing postcard sent out by the US Postal service has misleading advice for California voters. Plus, Following the departure of the "North Park Community Fridge," we find food assistance offered at another location just down the street in North Park. And, California’s Common Sense Party, which KPBS found was signing up voters without their knowledge or consent, is now suing the state to get on the ballot, even though it hasn't collected enough signatures.