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LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Justice

George Floyd One Year On

Cover image for podcast episode

A mural of George Floyd, painted by artist Chloe Becky, covers the plywood boards on the shattered storefront of a beauty college in La Mesa on June 2, 2020.

JULIA DIXON EVANS

It’s been one year since the killing of George Floyd -- what’s happened to police reform in San Diego since then? Meanwhile, across San Diego school officials say there will be a return to normalcy in the fall. Plus, the Yellow Whistle Campaign, a nationwide effort to stand in solidarity with the Asian community, has made its way to Mira Mesa.

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Tuesday, May 25th.

>>>>

San Diego Police Reform, one year after the death of George Floyd

More on that next, but first... let’s do the headlines….

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In the midst of conditions that make California ripe for a brutal fire season, Governor Gavin Newsom proposed a record-breaking two-billion dollar investment in wildfire defense and preparation on Monday…

“then looking medium and long term at addressing the deficit in terms of our efforts on forest health, forest management, fuels management, as well as fire breaks all up and down the state of california.”

The plan also includes hiring nearly 1400 new firefighters.

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San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond has unveiled a proposal for customers to get 50% discounts at local restaurants -- it's called the “Dine-in and Help-out” restaurant program. The program would have the county reimburse restaurants for the discounts all in order to stimulate the local industry. Here’s Desmond.

“Restaurants sign up, they send their receipts, they get their money back through the efforts of the county. And when the money's gone it's gone.”

Desmond's proposal would use $50 million from the city’s COVID relief funds -- the program will be offered on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and the only caveat is that alcohol will not be a refundable purchase. Supervisors will vote on the proposal on June 8th.

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San Diego Supervisor Nathan Fletcher and Mayor Todd Gloria announced funding for 21 transitional housing units and four vehicles for crisis care teams for the county. The units and vehicles were funded using $5 million of the $25 million dollar County-City Behavioral Health Impact Fund. That Fund is intended to provide one-time capital funding for mental health and drug treatment providers to expand their capacity to provide services.

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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.

One year ago today George Floyd was murdered by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Floyd’s death sparked a global movement as people from all races took to the streets to call for greater racial justice and police reform.

And San Diego was no exception. KPBS Evening Edition Anchor Maya Trabulsi spoke with KPBS Race and Equity Reporter Cristina Kim about where San Diego stands on police reforms one year later.

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School officials across San Diego County say kids will be going back to a pre-pandemic normal in the fall. But, they say, students should keep their face masks handy. KPBS Education reporter Joe Hong has more.

San Diego Unified, the county’s largest school district, will welcome back all students to campuses for full-time in-person instruction when the new school year starts in the fall, says School Board President Richard Barrera.
BARRERA.mp400:00:18:02RICHARD BARRERA /// SD UNIFIED SCHOOL BOARD PRESIDENTParents who are ready to have their students come back to in-person learning should expect… it’s going to look like a typical schedule pre-covid.
While class schedules might be back to normal, it’s still possible that students will be wearing masks and some physical distancing will remain in place. This is because the state Legislature is unlikely to pass a vaccination mandate before the new school year. And the state department of health has yet to say how it’s guidelines could change.
BARRERA.mp400:03:57:18Those guidelines around mask wearing, around distancing, around small cohorts, all of those measures that are in place right now, may look differently in the fall, and whatever they look like either at the beginning or as we go into the school year, we want to evolve based on the CDPH guidelines.
Across the county, large districts like Poway Unified, Chula Vista Elementary and Sweetwater Union High also plan on a full reopening. But these districts and San Diego Unified will still offer virtual instruction for families who prefer it. Barrera says the district will expand its online, independent learning programs that existed before the pandemic.
BARRERA.mp400:01:43:08If you look at for instance Mount Everest Academy, the full range of courses are available to students, A-G courses, AP, all of the courses that students would have access to in-person. We want to as much as possible replicate that online as well.
The district doesn’t know what percentage of students will return to campuses in the fall, but Barrera says he expects class sizes to be back at pre-pandemic levels. Joe Hong KPBS News.

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The Yellow Whistle campaign, a nationwide effort to stand in solidarity with the Asian-American And Pacific Islander community, has made its way to Mira Mesa, where hundreds of yellow whistles will be distributed.

KPBS’ Alexandra Rangel has more.

Councilman Chris Cate is continuing his efforts to fight against asain-hate by helping launch The Yellow Whistle campaign in Mira Mesa, a community where one in every three residents is Asain.
When someone blows the whistle, it means someone is being attacked. It is a call for help.
Chris Cate , San Diego Councilman
“The yellow whistle campaign began in New York City to boost security and solidarity for Asain Americans.”
Cate is hoping to do the same across the county.
Chris Cate , San Diego Councilman
“These yellow whistles will be another tool in our tool box."
A recent study from Stop AAPI Hate, reported a sharp rise in asain hate crimes nationwide...with over 6-thousand incidents reported in a year.
“Do not be silent. Blow the whistle if we need to.”
Lilly Cheng, Chair of the Asain Pacific Islander American Public Affairs of San Diego is hoping the yellow whistle will help Asians feel protected and seen.
Lilly Cheng, APAPA San Diego
“Asain Americans are typically very quiet, very silent, almost invisible.”
From the Yellow Emperor, to the Yellow River, as a Chinese American, Cheng says the color yellow carries a rich history and she wears it with pride.
But yellow is also a symbol of great peril for the Asain community.
Lilly Cheng, APAPA San Diego
“Yellow has been used and has been weaponized as a way to get rid of the yellow people. The yellow people are dirty, the yellow people bring diseases, and the yellow people are not the kind of people we want.”
But Cheng is hoping to give the color a new meaning.
Lilly Cheng, APAPA San Diego
“We would like to turn this color around and call this not yellow peril, but yellow pride.”
Alexandra Rangel KPBS News.

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The first known COVID-19 wrongful death claim involving Donovan state prison has been filed against the state corrections department. inewsource investigative reporter Jill Castellano has the story.

CASTELLANO: Leon Martinez was an inmate at Donovan prison in San Diego when he died from COVID-19 in January. He was 48. When his wife got the news, she was in shock.
GARCIA: “I honestly thought I was going to pass out. I fell to my knees. I just felt, you know, just very alone.” (8 seconds)
CASTELLANO: Evangelina Garcia says it’s a death that could have been prevented.
CASTELLANO: Now, she and Martinez’s three children are bringing a case against the state for its role in his death. They say guards were not wearing masks or social distancing, and the prison was housing infected inmates with people who didn’t have the virus… causing Martinez to contract COVID-19.
GARCIA: “I feel they gave him a life sentence he was not supposed to have.” (6 seconds)
CASTELLANO: The state has about six months to review the family’s administrative claim. If it’s rejected, they can file a lawsuit.
GARCIA: “You know I just don’t want this to happen again and I still need answers and accountability.” (8 seconds)
CASTELLANO: The state corrections department would not answer questions about Martinez’s death, but has defended its handling of the pandemic.
CASTELLANO: For KPBS, I’m inewsource investigative reporter Jill Castellano.

This story was co-reported with Mary Plummer. inewsource is an independently funded nonprofit partner of KPBS.

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For long-standing businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic has been brutal.
But for restaurants that were just starting out…. Surviving has been nearly impossible.
On this week’s City Heights Bites, KPBS reporter Max Rivlin-Nadler looks at one City Heights restaurant that is not only trying to survive, but thrive, as it shakes off losses from the past year.

Ingenuity can not only help a business survive the worst climate for restaurants in recent history… it can also be delicious… when it’s in the hands of Trang Nong and her co-conspirators at Tahn Dun Jai…. a vietnamese restaurant that serves only vegan and vegetarian fare…
As you can see around here, the vietnamese traditional one, it usually come with the meat, the pork, they provide much of the option for vegetarian and vegan restaurant.
The restaurant opened right before the pandemic… quickly amassing regulars…. Who then switched over to pickup and delivery once indoor dining had to shut down…..
That gave the owner and workers at the restaurant more time to perfect recipes — not trying to just replicate standard vietnamese dishes, but create their own versions — hinging on creative uses of soy, tofu, and other vegetable substitutes.
Take this Banh Mi for instance…. They not only make their own bread every day… they make their own, quote un quote, “meat.”
For the sandwich, it’s really popular because we combine two of the proteins in here. One of the barbecue pork and one of the other “pork.” And we have some feet right here, like the real one.
Nong, who immigrated from Vietnam a decade ago, says that people looking for Vietnamese food without meat didn’t have any options in San Diego. Now, they have one of the most cutting-edge culinary experiences in City Heights… Giving even those who grew up eating traditional Vietnamese food a pleasant surprise.
At first they’re really shocked, because it tastes exactly like the meat one, the flavor of the broth.
Customers are free to also choose a variety of sides and meat-substitutes to supplement dishes they can make at home.
A lot time, people don’t have enough time to wait for a little bit to make the food, so they’re just on the rush, and they grab some of the items, and they go home and heat it up.
While business is still way down from before the pandemic, Nong hopes that as indoor dining resumes this week in the restaurant, there will be way more regulars…. Looking for food that pushes boundaries….. While still feeling very much home in the dynamic food scene of City Heights….
Max Rivlin-Nadler, KPBS News

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Coming up.... An open letter from a city councilmember highlights concerns at San Diego Unified’s Lincoln High School. We’ll have that story and more next, just after the break.

Concern is mounting over a host of issues at San Diego Unified’s Lincoln High School, after a City Council member submitted a letter highlighting long standing concerns within the school’s administration.

Councilmember Monica Montgomery-Steppe says high administrative turnover coupled with allegations of mispent funds and sexual assault at the school constitutes a failute in Lincoln High’s service to it’s community.

Kristin Takeda is the education reporter at the San Diego Union Tribune. She discussed the letter and it’s surrounding controversy with KPBS Midday Edition Host Jade Hindmon.

So what particular incident prompted council member? Montgomery steps letter. And what did the letter express? Yeah,

Speaker 2: 00:44 So it looks like there were a number of things that prompted the letter. One of them was one of Lincoln's directors or leaders was apparently moved from the school. And so I think that for the council member brought up the concerns again of the school's leadership turnover they've gone through, I believe four principals since 2014. So I think that kind of just prompted those concerns again. Can you and remind

Speaker 1: 01:12 Us of what these long standing issues are at Lincoln high school?

Speaker 2: 01:16 Yeah, so I think one of the big ones was the leadership turnover in terms of going through several principals and a relatively small number of years. And so I think just having to cycle through so many leaders in that time, really binge the morale of the community and has made them feel like their school isn't getting, you know, the best leadership or the best help from the district. And so that's why that has been, I guess, a source of discouragement to some, but they did want to note that like there have been some improvements at the school since the new principal has been appointed. And so, and Stephanie Brown was appointed by, uh, a committee of P of community members and people who selected her for Lincoln. So since she came, the graduation rates have gone up from, I believe, 80 to 84% in the year she's been here. And then the suspension rate also fell significantly. How has

Speaker 1: 02:15 San Diego unified leadership reacted to the letter that was written by council member Montgomery step in general

Speaker 2: 02:22 And specifically the board vice president, um, Sharon Whitehurst pain whose area does include Lincoln. She believed that the letter ignored the progress that, um, the print, the new principal has made in the past two years. And I think in general, she wanted to stress that, that there has been progress. And I guess she felt it wasn't fair to only highlight negative events or elements about Lincoln and not focus on the positives.

Speaker 1: 02:54 And tell me about some of those positives.

Speaker 2: 02:56 The graduation rate has gone up. The suspension rate has gone down and, um, the principal has, according to the school, the principal has been working on, for example, changing the career pathways that the school offers for students. And so, um, and then I think in general, there's also just a lot of community members, whether it's at the YMCA or other organizations that are in the community that are trying to celebrate and support the students at Lincoln and in those surrounding community for years, community

Speaker 1: 03:30 Advocates have argued. The school has failed to address issues with leadership resources and equity for students, especially black students. What can you tell us?

Speaker 2: 03:41 Part of that is what we've seen about. Yeah, the leadership turnover that just signals to some community members that the district hasn't stabilized the school after a number of years, and they've also been pointing to gaps, racial disparities and discipline. So like in the district overall, there is a racial disparity gap between, um, black students who are suspended and students in general, who are suspended, black students, um, are more likely to be suspended from school. And so, um, yeah, those are just some of the signs that some community members they see and then that, that to them is proof that that Lincoln is still not where they wanted to be, or they don't think the district is doing enough to help this school.

Speaker 1: 04:27 What's been the district's response to the multiple alleged sexual assaults and allegations of misused funds mentioned in Montgomery step's letter.

Speaker 2: 04:36 Well, for the, um, regarding the funds, um, the district said that, um, the, the, the money that the school had won the school council had wanted to spend on tutoring and textbooks. It was about $220,000. Um, that, that money, they, they said that money was actually never available in the first place for the school council to decide to spend. And so that's why, I guess that was their explanation for why the money didn't go to tutoring and textbooks. This is from 2019. And so the district said that, uh, an outside law firm conducted a report, um, looking into the matter to see why that money wasn't, um, allocated to tutoring and textbooks. And that's what that, um, law firm had found that the money wasn't available in the first place, um, and in terms of the sexual assaults, these are from a number of, uh, lawsuits and other cases that had come up in the past several years. Um, and each one I don't have in front of me, like the district response for each of those,

Speaker 1: 05:45 Ultimately, what type of change do council member Montgomery step and community advocates want to see happen in the immediate future for Lincoln high?

Speaker 2: 05:54 I think one of the things that they just for the council members letter, she was mainly asking for answers to a lot of questions about why these things have been happening at Lincoln. Why, what, what is the state of Lincoln in terms of the data? And so, um, yeah, I think they, a lot of it, um, is they want answers and then also community members, um, they, some of them feel just ignored by the district. And so I think, um, this out are they say that they just want to hear, um, or for the, um, for the district to listen to them. And so, um, yeah, I think that's what, one of the main things they were, they were hoping for.

That was Kristin Takeda, education reporter for the San Diego Union Tribune. She was speaking with KPBS Midday Edition host Jade Hindmon.

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KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando is an avid Star Wars fan who enjoys celebrating May 4th -- that is, May the Fourth Be With You. Another May date to celebrate is May 25th -- that’s when, in And on May 25th, 1977, Star Wars opened in theaters and changed the movie landscape forever. Beth spoke to fans who saw the opening day in San Diego as well as in foreign countries, and she brings us this audio postcard.

DAVID GLANZER: I remember. The Fox fanfare…
MUSIC Fox logo
DAVID GLANZER: And when you're sitting in a single screen house with anywhere from eight hundred to a thousand people with this massive wall to wall screen, it's it's pretty heady stuff. And then the blue logo that said, you know, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the screen went black. And then, bam…
MUSIC John Williams score
COLLEEN KELLY BURKS: And then when the first ship comes on screen and the theater’s like doing its rumble, rumble and you're like, whoa.
MARK TUTTLE: What blew you away right from the beginning was the Star Destroyer, because sci fi at that time hadn't really done a great deal of showing scale in space.
GARY DEXTER: I was just sitting there slack jawed and the sound, of course, you know, we'd never experience that kind of sound before.
CLIP SFX
KAREN SCHNAUBELT: The rebel cruiser went by and the imperial cruiser went by overhead.
MARK TUTTLE: Then all of a sudden you see that Star Destroyer and it’s coming, and coming, and coming…
DAVID GLANZER: And all of a sudden there's this break and you're like, Oh, it's finally over. No, that's just the docking bay.
YAZDI PITHAVALA: Oh, my God, is this thing ever going to end? It's so big.
TREVOR NEWTON: I sat there, that whole movie just leaned forward in that seat to staring at that drive in screen, listening to that little tiny, crappy speaker…
CLIP distorted through speaker
TREVOR NEWTON: [00:23:22.550] Hi there, my name's Trevor Newton. I saw Star Wars in June of 1977. I was nine years old.
COLLEEN KELLY BURKS: Hi, I'm Colleen Kelly Burks and I was 21 years old when I saw Star Wars at the Valley Circle on the day before it premiered on the twenty fifth. So I saw it on the 24th and I was totally blown away.
GARY DEXTER: So my name is Gary Dexter. I grew up in the United Kingdom. I was nine years old when what we now know is episode for a new hope dropped. What was interesting about the UK is at that time we got all of our big movies at least six months later than the US. And so we had an additional six months plus of hype and marketing. And so by the time the movie actually came out and I got to see it, I was on the verge of exploding. But it did change my life.
YAZDI PITHAVALA: Hi, I'm Yazdi Pithavala and I was about nine years old when I first watched Star Wars, it was at the Sterling Cinema in Mumbai in India.
CLIP I got a bad feeling about this.
YAZDI PITHAVALA: There were parts of it which were pretty scary to me. Like, there's that to this day. I remember there's that one scene where Luke , Leia, Han and I think Chewy, they're all in this trash compactor.
CLIP One thing’s for sure we’re all going to be a lot thinner.
YAZDI PITHAVALA: Oh, my God, the walls are literally closing in on them. And, you know, I remember like, being physically scared of it.
CLIP Oh no R@ they’re dying…
MARK TUTTLE: I'm Mark Tuttle, I was 12 years old when Star Wars came out in 1977, and I think that was the the perfect age to see Star Wars. Even though we're dealing with light sabers and blasters and aliens and other worlds, it looked real. And it made you think it was real because it's like a ship is filthy. Look at the look at the look at the X wings. I mean I mean, would you really want to fly in that?
CLIP SFX X-wing
DAVID GLANZER: Hi, my name is David Glanzer, and I saw Star Wars for the first time the weekend that opened at the Valley Circle Theater in San Diego.
KAREN SCHNAUBELT: Hi, I'm Karen Schnaubelt and I was 22 years old when Star Wars came out. I saw it 35 times that summer.
KEVIN RING: Hi, I'm Kevin Ring. I was 13 years old when I saw Star Wars for the first time at the Valley Circle Theater. People knew how to react instinctively.
DAVID GLANZER: When Darth Vader appeared out of the steam and smoke from the blast. You knew he was bad and everybody was booing and hissing.
COLLEEN KELLY BURKS: [hisses] And that was just like, oh, I'm not the only one that wants to make noise that this.
CLIP Han yells.
COLLEEN KELLY BURK: So still to this day, see, I mean, how many years later and I can still be all enthusiastic about it because I still remember how cool that was.
CLIP Death Star blows up

That audio postcard was produced by KPBS arts reporter and Star Wars fan Beth Accomando.

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.