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The Race For The 79th

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A worker at the San Diego County Registrar of Voters checks a mail-in ballot for errors in this Oct. 16, 2020 photo.

SHALINA CHATLANI

Early voting begins today in the special election to fill the 79th district state assembly seat. The seat used to belong to Dr. Shirley Weber, now the Secretary of State. Meanwhile, San Diego county and Mexico are working together on opening a new vaccination site downtown at the Mexican Consulate. Plus, South bay women leaders in healthcare get honored for their work during the pandemic.

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Wednesday March 24th.

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We’ll look at the race to fill Secretary of State Shirley Weber’s assembly seat.

But first... let’s do the headlines….

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The suspected D-U-I driver accused of crashing onto a downtown San Diego sidewalk, killing three people and injuring others, pleaded "not guilty" on tuesday. 71-year-old Craig Martin Voss appeared in court by video from county jail. Police say on March 15th, his station wagon veered onto the sidewalk and into a homeless encampment beneath the "B Street" overpass near San Diego City College. Voss is facing charges of gross vehicular manslaughter and D-U-I. Bail is set at one million dollars, but will be up for review next Tuesday.

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The San Diego unified school district superintendent Cindy Martin begins her Senate confirmation hearing today to fill the role of deputy Secretary of Education. . Marten was tapped by President Joe Biden back in January. If she’s confirmed, Superintendent Lamont Jackson of area 2 has been selected by the SD unified board to fill in as interim superintendent through at least the rest of the year.

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It’ll be sunny skies today and some gusty winds in the mountains and deserts. A storm system is expected to come in overnight and bring rain by tomorrow morning and it’ll stay on through friday evening.

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From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now.

Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

The state assembly seat representing the 79th Assembly district, which runs from Otay Ranch all the way to La Mesa, is now vacant…. After Dr. Shirley Weber was confirmed as the new Secretary of State…KPBS reporter Max Rivlin-Nadler looks at the race to replace her, where early voting has already begun…..

The special election comes at a pivotal time for the heavily-Democratic 79th district, when federal covid recovery money will now flow through the state to communities that desperately need it….
Akilah Weber is a doctor, La Mesa City Council member, and daughter of the woman she’s now running to replace.
She says she’ll be up to the task of making sure these funds help a community that’s hurting, because she’s already working in government.
11:35
One of the things that’s beneficial about being an elected official at this time, is that I already have the relationship with the elected officials that actually govern these individual areas and individual cities. I have not only the relationships, but the support.
National City resident Leticia Munguia [Mung-iya] is a lifelong organizer in San Diego, and has worked on behalf of a public employees union for the past 16-years. She thinks relationships at the community level will prove valuable to distributing much-needed resources immediately… ..
9:48
When I look at the short-term impact of on small businesses, my approach is going to be able to leverage public, federal, state resources, to make sure we provide immediate injection of relief to our small businesses, where there’s an opportunity to have them reopen their doors and that we’re there to support them.
Aeiramique Glass Blake is a criminal justice reform advocate, whose previous run for public office was derailed by a cancer diagnosis…. She wants to make sure that communities know how beneficial policies in both Washington and Sacramento are impacting them, and that they feel those impacts….
4:25
These communities never actually feel the policy changes, they never actually see the results of what was created for them, to change and make their lives better. We have to do a better job of evaluating how we’re implementing and building infrastructure to roll out these policies.
Two other candidates, Middle School teacher Shane Parmely, and Republican Marco Contrras, are also running for the seat… Early voting began on March 8th…. With the primary election concluding on April 6th. If no candidate wins a majority of votes, a runoff will be held on June 8th.
Either way, the assemblymember will have missed the bulk of an important legislative session, and will need to get up to speed quickly. That’s where Munguia believes she has an advantage — as already a veteran of what goes into deal-making in Sacramento.
6:27
I really feel that I’m prepared, I’m experienced, and I’ve been a champion for workers.
Weber says her immediate focus would be on helping improve public health, through tackling long-standing social problems, like school funding.
3:20
When we talk about social determinants, we talk about things like closing the achievement gap, making sure that things like resources and funds are equitably distributed, and money is able to be given to those that need more. So that schools, no matter which one your child goes to, regardless of your zip code, that every child has an equal opportunity for their future.
While both Weber and Munguia have picked up coveted endorsements and financial support from local political leaders and labor organizations…..
Glass Blake feels like her political outsider status will allow her to more directly service the community.
5:40
I really want to bypass all the politics within politics, because many times we don’t get that sustainable change, because our politicians are bought and paid for, they’re bossed, and so whoever the associations and the unions, the ones that are filling their pockets and getting them into those seats, are really the ones who control our political system, and I really want that to change.
Former assembly member Dr. Shirley Weber passed a series of police reform bills, which won her accolades from across the country. Each candidate says they’ll continue her work, in their own way.
For Dr. Akilah Weber, the protests from over the spring, and the riot in her hometown of La Mesa, reminded her that social justice issues in the district must be continually listened to and addressed at the state level.
19:20
What we saw in May and June was not due to a single incident. It was due to years of people not being heard. Years of people feeling marginalized and treated differently. I had a patient at the time, and she told me, we’re from here, and I always told my husband, don’t stop at any trolley stops that go through La Mesa… and that broke my heart, because that says there’s been a longstanding pattern of people feeling like they don’t belong, like their voices aren’t heard….
Munguia believes that the use of crisis teams, where mental health professionals respond to people in distress, instead of law enforcement.
17:00
We have issues involving mental health crises, we need to look at who gets dispatched and who needs to get dispatched, and know that there’s work that’s already occurring at the City of San Diego that I’m watching.
Three of the four Democratic candidates will participate in a forum on Wednesday evening focusing on gun violence in the district, organized by San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention. The forum begins at 6pm.

And that reporting from KPBS’ MAx Rivlin-Nadler.

Millions of california workers can now take more paid sick time for issues related to the pandemic, under a bill signed by Governor Gavin Newsom. Capradio’s Nicole Nnixon reports.

The new law requires companies with 25 or more employees to give their workers up to two weeks of supplemental paid sick leave. Employees can use that sick time to quarantine, schedule a vaccine, care for a sick family member, or take care of a child whose school or daycare is closed.
Workers unions applauded the measure, but business groups and many Republicans argued that it’s too onerous for already struggling businesses.
Democratic State Senator Dave Min of Irvine says he’s sympathetic to those businesses, but...
"On the other hand, it is good policy. We don’t want sick workers coming into work or facing that tough decision between missing a paycheck or losing their jobs." (:10)
Companies will be reimbursed through a federal payroll tax credit.
The measure is retroactive, so companies may need to pay workers for sick time already taken this year. SOC

San Diego County and Mexico are working together to open a new vaccination site downtown at the Mexican consulate building. KPBS’s Erik Anderson reports.

The county and Mexican officials are building on success of a COVID 19 testing program they beang last September at the consulate in downtown San Diego. That partnership offered no-cost testing for the coronavirus. The effort was heralded as a safe and accessible testing location for San Diego’s Mexican and Latino Communities.
Carlos González Gutiérrez, Consul General of Mexico in San Diego
“We are proud of this partnership because it helps reinforce the message that our community can access public health services regardless of their immigration status or their nationality.”
Vaccinations are available there three days a week. The consulate will follow county guidelines meaning people will need an appointment to get a shot. San Diego County Supervisor Nora Vargas says this is part of an effort to reach out to the entire region.
Nora Vargas, Vice Chair, First District, County Board of Supervisors
00:28:20 - 00:28:41 “We are a binational region and as a binational region we are interdependent. There’s over 200-thousand Americans, US citizens not just having a legal residence as well, living in Tijuana for many reasons and so they’re also part of the bigger equation for us as we’re moving forward and so we’re continuing to advocate and to make sure that everyone gets a vaccination."
County officials want people to see the new vaccination site as a safe haven. Though any qualified person can get a shot there, they say the consulate will help them reach out to the county’s Latino community.

And that was KPBS’ Erik Anderson.

A Los Angeles man is able to walk and breathe on his own again, after a months-long fight with COVID-19 at a San Diego hospital. KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman says now the 32 year old is able to go home and see his 11 year-old daughter again.

Cheering nats
We’re going home thank god
Eduardo Moreno was released from Scripps Memorial hospital in La Jolla this morning, after an 8-month hospital battle with COVID-19.
Ripping the chain and clapping
Eduardo’s lungs are still recovering.. And while he didn’t want to speak today, his mother Cecilia Amador says his recovery has been an emotional roller coaster..
We didn't have any visitors so it was very hard for me to be home
Her son first came to the hospital last July--
Cecilia Amador, mother
He was very critical and they told us that he wasn’t going to make it. And from there on he went into a coma for three months
Scripps Health Dr. David “Scott” Mccaul was caring for Moreno during his stay.. And says the virus caused advanced respiratory failure..
Dr. David “Scott” McCaul, Scripps Health ICU medical Director
We decided to go for life support which is a manner of taking your blood and going through a machine so as to take over his lung function
There were multiple surgeries, and for months eduardo was entirely dependent on machines… his lungs didn’t heal enough to start breathing on his own until January.
He went through any number of challenges to get to that level of independence the pain to fight through and because of that he’s a model for all of us
He wanted to live, that’s what he told me
Being a mom i was just crying at home I want him home and the doctor said don't worry he is going to make it home
Doctors say nurses, therapists and other ICU staff became like extended family--
Without them, not possible
Moreno’s mother says she was shocked and amazed to hear that he was being released this week and is grateful to everyone who helped her son get back to “100 percent”, despite the odds stacked against them.

And That reporting was from KPBS’ Matt Hoffman.

Coming up.... A healthcare leader in San Diego’s South Bay is honored for her work during the pandemic. We’ll have more on that story next, just after the break.

The Covid Pandemic has created a number of unsung heroes. From the person who delivers groceries to your door, to the mail carriers and sanitation workers, who work every day to keep the wheels of society turning. And of course, first and foremost - health care workers - especially those in the hardest hit areas of our country. A healthcare leader from the South Bay is now receiving recognition for her work. Ana Melgoza is the vice president of external affairs for san ysidro Health, and she’s dealt with some of the worst of the pandemic. Now she’s among three women honored by the MANA de San Diego organization during women’s history month. She spoke with KPBS Midday Edition host Maureen Kavanaugh. Here’s that interview...

And that was Ana Melgoza , Vice President of External Affairs for San Ysidro Health, speaking with KPBS Midday Edition host Maureen Kavanaugh.

That’s it for the podcast today. Be sure to catch KPBS Midday Edition At Noon on KPBS radio, or check out the Midday podcast. You can also watch KPBS Evening Edition at 5 O’clock on KPBS Television, and as always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

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San Diego News Now

San Diego news; when you want it, where you want it. Get local stories on politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings. Hosted by Anica Colbert and produced by KPBS, San Diego and the Imperial County's NPR and PBS station.