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A Deep Look at San Diego Mayoral Race

 October 5, 2020 at 4:04 AM PDT

The Teachers Union for the Chula Vista School District is concerned about plans to reopen in late October. Since September there have been five COVID-19 cases at childcare centers on campuses Rosi Martinez is a teacher at Hilltop Drive Elementary School in west Chula Vista, and vice president of the teachers union. She says she regularly sees some of the staff and students at the child care centers not wearing masks or social distancing. If it's such a small group of students and we can't maintain physical distance in such a large space like being outside, then my concern is if we have much larger groups of students, how are we going to expect them to be followed. A district spokesman declined to be interviewed but provided an emailed statement. It said the district's reopening plan for October mandates that students sitting at the same table be divided by plexiglass... and students and staff are required to wear face masks. Voter registration in San Diego County is already up 13% compared to 2016. The registrar's office expects voter turnout to be around 80%. And this year, all registered voters will get a ballot in the mail. County Registrar of Voters Michael Vu says getting the vote counted early will depend on how soon voters return ballots. “We are only as good as voters once they receive their ballot, vote it and get it back to us for us to process it all the way through that is verifying it opening it extracting the ballot out…” VU says this this year, ballots can be received until November 20th, as long as they’re postmarked by election day on November 3rd. Voters can return their ballots as soon as they get them. And you can always find more information or check your voter registration at SD-vote-dot-org. A local nonprofit is hoping you’ll go get one of its free flu shots this year. Champions for Health holds annual mobile clinics in low-income communities with poor immunization rates. Executive Director Adama Dyoniziak (uh-DAH-muh die-uh-NEE-zee-ack) says she expects a high demand. That's because people may want flu protection during the coronavirus pandemic and many may have lost their jobs. "Usually the flu vaccine costs an average of $40; that could be a bag of groceries, that could be a tank of gas." The non-profit has scheduled more than 30 mobile clinics through this year and plans to bring double the amount of shots to each one. On a Monday October 5th. 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. President Trump this week called on his supporters to monitor voting locations during the election. CapRadio's PolitiFact California reporter Chris Nichols explains what activities are, and are NOT allowed at the polls. Here's what President Trump said at Tuesday's debate: 01Trump: "I am urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully. Because that's what has to happen. I am urging them to do it." (:09) In California and across the country, people have the right to observe what happens at the polls and ask questions, as long as they don't interfere with voting. Here's Sacramento County Registrar of Voters Courtney Bailey-Kanelos 01Kanelos: "We are a completely open, public process. Which means observers, whether you're part of a group or not, you can come and watch any part of the process." (:10) Kanelos says there are some ground rules that apply to all counties statewide: 02Kanelos: "You cannot intimidate, harass or ask voters any personal questions and if you do then you will be asked to leave." (:09) You also can't bring campaign signs or flags or wear clothing for a specific candidate inside the voting site. 03Kanelos: "Because we want that to be a safe, neutral space." (:04) If an observer wants to ask people who they voted for, they must do that at least 25 feet away from the entrance. And any campaigning must take place at least 100 feet away. Finally, says the number of observers allowed in voting areas will be more limited this year to comply with COVID-19 precautions. In Sacramento, I'm Chris Nichols. The economic shutdown as a result of the pandemic has had severe impacts on airlines and theme parks. With congress unable to agree on a new stimulus package, airlines are announcing major furloughs. Business commentators say the pain won’t stop there either. KPBS’ Devin Whatley reports. COVID-19 has swept many businesses into a hole but the leisure and travel industry is very hard hit. Disney has seen declining stock prices and revenues due to theme park closures, and they have been forced to lay off 28,000 employees. United and American Airlines announced 35,000 furloughs due to the ending of CARES Act government support. Miro Copic is a lecturer at San Diego State University and co-founder of Bottom Line Marketing. He expects to see layoffs in other parts of the travel and leisure industry in the coming months ahead. "They're at risk in the next six to nine months of losing an additional 3.7 million jobs, so probably two-thirds of all hotel jobs might be gone by next summer if the economy doesn't improve and people are not allowed or don't go on trips, or business trips." . A study also found that two thirds of hotels may have to close permanently if the industry does not bounce back. Devin Whatley, KPBS News. Among the most consequential races in San Diego this election season is that for San Diego mayor. Both candidates — Assemblymember Todd Gloria and City Councilmember Barbara Bry — are Democrats. But KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen says their priorities are quite different. TG: What? I made an omelet! AB: It's just past 10 a.m. and Todd Gloria is volunteering at a North Park cafe preparing meals for seniors. He's still working on his omelet flipping technique. TG: Haha did you see that? Did you catch that? That's my second, better than the first one. AB: The program is called Great Plates Delivered. The state of California pays restaurants to prepare and deliver meals to older adults who are stuck at home because of COVID-19. Gloria strikes up a conversation with the chef, who says he's working three jobs to keep his family afloat. Gloria later tells me he can sympathize. TG: I grew up in a working class family, I rode the bus as a young man. I understand what a lot of folks must do to get by. AB: Before he was elected to the state Assembly, Gloria served on the San Diego City Council for eight years, including six months as interim mayor. As the COVID-19 pandemic takes its toll on the city budget, Gloria says this is an area where he has relevant experience. TG: I served as the city's budget chair for six of the eight years that I was at city hall. Was able to take the city from massive budget deficits as a result of the Great Recession, turn them into surpluses and reserves that thankfully will help mitigate some of the cuts that will be necessary going forward. I would point out that the city was running a deficit prior to the pandemic — a real reflection, I think, of the poor fiscal stewardship over the last four years by this mayor and by my opponent, who is the chair of the budget committee. BB: Great, well I'm honored to have your vote and thank you very much for coming to get a yard sign. AB: Gloria's opponent is City Councilmember Barbara Bry. We meet her at the home of a supporter as she's handing out yard signs and talking with a group of her backers. BB: You have a cat, too! (We have two cats, four dogs). Wow! AB: Bry was elected to the council in 2016. Before politics she had a successful business career, co-founding an e-commerce company and incubating other tech startups. She says she's proud of helping sink the Soccer City ballot measure in 2018, demanding an independent audit of the city's overbilling of water customers and asking tough questions about the city's bad record on real estate deals. BB: So I'm running for mayor first of all to bring accountability and transparency to city hall, to lead an inclusive economic recovery as we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exemplified our existing inequities. And it's why I believe my private sector experience is so important in creating jobs in terms of how we're going to have an economy that's going to get everyone back to work. AB: Bry's platform includes banning dockless scooter sharing companies and short-term home rentals. She says she supports increasing density near public transit stops as a way to alleviate the city's housing crisis, but opposes allowing duplexes in neighborhoods otherwise restricted to low-density housing. Bry still hasn't decided how she'll vote this election on Measure A, which would allow the city to issue bonds to fund affordable housing. She says the measure's increase to property taxes gives her pause. BB: Andrew, when we raise property taxes, somebody pays. I mean, homeowners pay, renters pay, it's all passed on. So we're in the middle of a pandemic. What I might have done six months ago — different than what, why I'm still thinking today. Because we still have many San Diegans out of work. And this is, could be a very challenging time to raise taxes. AB: Gloria supports Measure A, and says when San Diego is tasked with tackling big problems like homelessness, "later" too often becomes "never." TG: You know even in this pandemic, even in this recession, even with people marching in the streets, the most common thing that is shared with me as a concern by San Diegans is homelessness. They see thousands of our neighbors sleeping outdoors, unsheltered, and they want something done about. And this is a way we can do something about it. AB: San Diego's next mayor will face more than just a massive budget deficit at the city. Unemployment is still higher than its peak during the Great Recession. Thousands of families could face eviction, making the homelessness crisis even worse. Who occupies the most powerful position in city government matters now more than ever. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news. That was KPBS Metro Reporter Andrew Bowen. Coming up on the podcast….Wildfires are tearing through California’s wine country at the peak of harvest season. "Vineyards are going to be dealing with these changes for decades to come." That story from our partners at CapRadio next, just after this quick break.. California passed a grim milestone yesterday with four million acres now burned in this year. The state’s wine country has borne the brunt of the fires, and during their peak harvest season too. Just to make matters worse, we know climate change could make the fires a recurring problem for decades to come. CapRadio's Scott Rodd reports from Sonoma County. Carol Shelton has been making wine for over 40 years. In the back room of her winery…there's an experiment happening. Below oak barrels stacked to the ceiling are plastic buckets filled with crushed grapes from this year's harvest. "These are each one different samples, and we've fermented it. If you lean over, you can smell it." She's looking for any hint of smoke…and not the kind you might find in a glass of pinot noir. "It's an acrid kind of a taste…not really acidic, but sort of sharp. And it kind of burns your throat a little bit." These days, wine country in Northern California is essentially wildfire country. Sonoma and Napa counties saw major fires this year at the peak of harvest, in August and past years, they occurred later in the fall. A number of vineyards have been overrun by flames. The ones left untouched are struggling with widespread smoke and rising temperatures that threaten grapes. In the short term, that means a messy, uncertain 2020 vintage...from seed to shelf. In the long-term, climate change could alter wine varieties in this region…and even reshape its borders. Shelton is no stranger to wildfires. The 2017 Tubbs Fire destroyed her old neighborhood. "There were 180-ish homes there and 178 burned to the ground. Everything that we owned was lost." Three years later…the smoke and fire have returned to haunt her business. "There's …1,2,3,4,5—6 wines for sure I cannot do. And the jury's still out on one or two. I've actually been at the edge of tears all week.." It's putting a pinch on growers too. Some winemakers are refusing to buy grapes if they're not tested by a special laboratory. And some insurance companies won't pay claims for ruined crops without those results. Anita Oberholster studies winemaking at UC Davis. "So now the labs are overrun. I mean, you have waiting times of 30 days—and people are supposed to make picking decisions next week." That story from Cap Radio’s Scott Rodd, reporting from Sonoma County.

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The two candidates vying to be San Diego’s next mayor would each likely take the city in different directions on issues like affordable housing, transportation and climate action. Also, deadly wildfires in California have burned more than 4 million acres (6,250 square miles) this year — more than double the previous record.. Most of that acreage has been in California’s Wine Country at the height of this year’s harvest. Plus, a fact check on what is and isn’t allowed at the voter polls this November.