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Race for Supervisor Seat Challenges County’s Political Balance

 October 12, 2020 at 4:01 AM PDT

Mail-in ballots for the November election have already been sent out to all registered voters. Residents who don't register in time to receive a mail-in ballot have other options for casting their votes in person. There are 235 super poll sites across the county that will be open for four days for in person voting, leading up to election day on November 3rd. And according to San Diego County Registrar of Voters, Michael Vu, as of October 5th, voters can go to the County Registrar of Voters office to cast a ballot in person as well. This election is going to be like no other election when it comes down to the safeguards We are expanding our technologies that will identify a persons mail in ballot versus showing up and trying to vote a ballot there. Residents with mail-in ballots can return those using the postal service or drop them off at the county's 126 drop off sites or polling locations. Has your rent gone up or down during the pandemic? That depends on where you live in California…according to data from the firm Real Page, which tracks real estate trends. CapRadio’s Scott Rodd says rents have decreased most in the Bay Area. RODD: San Francisco and San Jose saw the biggest drop nationwide over the last year…down roughly 10 to 11 percent. California cities also topped the list for annual rent increases….with Sacramento and the San Bernadino/Riverside metro area seeing a jump of roughly four percent. Rent control features prominently in this year’s election. Voters will weigh in on a statewide rent control measure…similar to one that failed in 2018. Sacramento voters will also decide whether to expand the city’s existing tenant protections. Today starts the hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. You can catch it live on KPBS radio at 89.5 FM. It’s also on KPBS 2 on television, and as a live stream on our website at KPBS dot org... And remember, the KPBS voter guide is online now. It’s a resource where you can customize to your ballot. You can make sure you’re registered, request a ballot, find your polling place, and find comprehensive links to all of the news and information on local and state races and ballot measures. You can find the KPBS voter guide online at KPBS dot org, slash election. On a Monday, October 12th. 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. California’s Employment Development Department has made some progress on its backlog of unemployment filings…but lawmakers say it’s not enough. CapRadio’s Scott Rodd has more. EDD halted new unemployment filings for two weeks in order to improve its application system. The department developed an online tool meant to speed up identity verification…but it’s only worked for about 6 out of 10 applicants. It also built a new dashboard with claims data. At a recent budget subcommittee hearing…Democratic Assemblyman David Chiu said the efforts fell flat. CHIU-1: “I give EDD…maybe a D when it comes to how you have shown your information. It’s confusing, it’s hard to navigate, it’s not transparent, it’s not accountable. This is not the spirit of what we had asked you to do.” (:14) The department is trying to automate much of its application process…in an effort to eliminate the backlog of more than 1 million claims filed by jobless Californians. EDD also says fraud remains a top concern...and is currently pursuing 75 open investigations. SOC California Education experts are warning that kids who’ve missed school because of COVID-19 may have learning challenges. Pauline Bartolone reports from Sacramento. A new study from University of California researchers shows after just a few weeks of absences from school during normal times, student test scores suffer especially in math. UCLA education professor Lucrecia Santibañez says we should worry about kids who lost touch with school under COVID. “These kids are going to need some targeted interventions because if they were disengaged from school for anything extended period of time, for seven or ten days, they’re probably going to need to catch up.” Santibañez says middle school students are the most challenged, so are kids with disabilities, and others who are low income, homeless, or are learning english. SOC The outcome of the county supervisor district three race could change the political balance of the San Diego county board for the first time in recent memory. Incumbent Republican Kristin Gaspar faces Democrat Terra Lawson-Remer, a first time candidate and an economist who worked in the Obama administration. KPBS’ Steve Walsh reports. The world changed dramatically after the March 3 primary. Right after the two candidates were chosen for the general election, COVID 19 thrust the county health system into the spotlight. At times incumbent Kristen Gaspar has been at odds with the county. Still very early on in the pandemic - In June - Garpar was publicly calling on the county to loosen restrictions on backyard gatherings. “It is really easy to look back at any point during the pandemic response and point to, OK in this month we have felt a different way but we have learned a lot.” She’s still pushing for San Diego County to make its own reopening plan as the virus continues to spread. “We need our control back from the governor. California is a large, diverse state. The thought that we can treat every county exactly the same with this peanut butter approach is the wrong one.” Gaspar says she suspended her campaign during the summer to concentrate on the COVID-19 response. She says that is one reason why even as an incumbent, she is trailing her challenger Terra Lawson-Remer in fundraising. Early on, Lawson-Remer - who is an attorney and college professor at UCSD says - she repurposed her phone banks so they could perform wellness checks on seniors in the district. Lawson-Remer is also critical of the county’s response for a different reason -- not having enough staff to handle the pandemic, even after a Hepatitis A outbreak two years earlier. “They just didn’t have the resources. There had been an under-investment in staff for so long that they were just not able to keep up with the demand. And they just did an extraordinary job with the limited resources they had, which fundamentally falls on the prior leadership.” Aside from potentially turning the board of supervisors from red to blue, the third district is likely to tip the balance of power on regional planning agency SANDAG, where Gaspar now has a seat. SANDAG is creating a 30 year plan which concentrates on mass transit and moves away from road widening projects. Gaspar wants the road projects. “How much are we willing to dedicate solely into mass transit while continuing to ignore the rest. How about we look at a balanced way to continue making those investments.” The county’s climate change plan has ended up in court. Lawson-Remer is running on replacing it with what she calls the gold standard of climate change plans, but she hasn’t taken a position on SANDAG’s plan. “The first thing you have to do is a feasibility study. How is this really going to bring the solutions that we need to our community. As well as an economic study. What is going to be the impact in terms of job creation.” In the latest campaign finance report, Lawson-Remer has brought in $162,000 more than Gaspar. Actors Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin recently held a virtual fundraiser for her. Lawson-Remer says Fonda is supporting candidates who take a strong stance to stop climate change. During a recent debate, Gaspar criticized the amount of money coming from the Service Employees International Union local 221, saying the union is trying to take over the board of supervisors. “This is not the time to siphon precious tax dollars over to labor union bosses.” Lawson-Remer says she is proud of her union support. Instead, Lawson-Remer continues to hammer away at Gaspar’s support for the Trump administration including trips to the White House. “My opponent has been a strong supporter of Donald Trump since day one. She’s one of his earliest endorsers.” The district runs up the coast from Solana Beach to Encinitas and up Interstate 15 from the 8 to Escondido. Once reliably Republican, it now has more registered Democrats. The third district is the best hope for Republicans to hold onto a 3 to 2 majority on the county board of supervisors, after a second seat went to Democrats in the primary. Steve Walsh KPBS News. That was KPBS’ Steve Walsh. Coming up on the podcast….an in-depth fact check of last week’s Vice Presidential Debate from our partners at Cap Radio. Last Wednesday night, wild claims and questionable statements weren’t the only things flying in the room when California Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence faced off in the campaign’s only vice presidential debate. There was even an actual fly … which made an extended cameo on Pence’s hair….and in an SNL skit this weekend. For the latest ‘Can You Handle The Truth’ segment, Cap Radio’s Steve Milne checked-in with Politi-Fact California reporter Chris Nichols. [CHRIS: There was a fly, we can all verify that one. And, yes, there were also a lot of false or questionable statements! STEVE: Chris, Let’s start with some from Senator Harris that have a connection to California. What did she get right or wrong? CHRIS: Harris criticized Pence and the Trump administration for downplaying and denying climate change, near the portion of the debate where the California wildfires came up. 01Kamala: “Do you know this administration took the word science off the website and then took the phrase climate change off the website.” (:09) She’s talking about the White House website and she is correct. PolitiFact has rated similar claims Mostly True. On COVID-19, Harris made a False claim about President Trump when she said Trump called the coronavirus “a hoax” back in March. PolitiFact has looked closely at the president’s words -- and found that he was clearly saying the politicization of the virus was the Democrats’ “new hoax.” STEVE: What about Vice President Pence? We know he is not from California, but let’s take a quick look at his claims. What did you fact check from his comments? CHRIS: Pence at one point placed blame on the Obama Biden administration for leaving an empty cupboard of supplies to fight a pandemic. 01Pence: “They left the strategic national stockpile empty. They left an empty and hollow plan.” (:05) PolitiFact found in one way that Pence has a point: N95 masks were depleted after the H1N1 outbreak in 2009. And experts warned they should have been replenished. But overall this is an exaggerated claim. Just a couple months before COVID-19 appeared, the former director of the stockpile described supplies as extensive and put their value at more than $8 billion. Democrats point out that the Trump administration had 3 years to replenish anything they felt was needed. STEVE: Pence also claimed that Harris was named the most liberal Democrat in the Senate. We know that there are other very liberal senators, most notably Bernie Sanders. Did he get that right? CHRIS: This label comes from GovTrack, a nonpartisan, a group that tracks bills in Congress. They did rank Harris as the "most liberal compared to All Senators," in 2019. That’s based on the share of bipartisan bills she cosponsored. But the group says this is only one way to measure a senator’s politics, and they noted Harris has backed away from some causes such as the ‘Abolish ICE’ movement. She has also moved away from a fully government run health care system. STEVE: Chris, there was one moment near the end of the debate when the vice president attacked Harris’ record as a prosecutor when she was a district attorney in San Francisco. Can you tell us more about that? CHRIS: Pence claimed that right after Harris left her job as San Francisco District Attorney, African-Americans were 19 times more likely to be prosecuted for minor drug crimes than whites and Latinos. We are taking a look at that, at this point PolitiFact doesn't have enough research to say whether that’s true or not. But what is true is that historically, California has disproportionately incarcerated people of color, going back long before Harris was in office. STEVE: And Chris, real quick, I read that the fly was on Pence’s hair for more than a couple minutes, which captivated viewers on social media. Did we fact check that, by chance? CHRIS: I can’t take credit for that fact check, but yes it made its cameo for exactly 2 minutes and 3 seconds -- creating quite a buzz on social media! STEVE: Thanks, Chris! And you can find all of Chris’ fact checks at Politifact-dot-com-slash-California.] That was Politi-Fact California reporter Chris Nichols speaking with Cap Radio’s Steve Milne [MILL-nee]. You’ll find all of Chris’ fact checks at Politi-fact-dot-com-slash-California. That’s it for the podcast today, thanks for listening.

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The outcome of the race to fill the District 3 seat for county supervisors could shift the political balance in San Diego. And... California’s EDD - the unemployment office - has made some improvements but is still facing criticism. Plus, state education experts are warning that children who have missed out on learning due to the pandemic may have learning challenges going forward.