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

SDG&E Continues Its Franchise

Cover image for podcast episode

Power lines at an SDG&E facility in North Park are seen here on Sept. 26, 2017.

ANDREW BOWEN

The San Diego City Council approved a new franchise agreement with SDG&E, despite many critics who said the deal did not do enough to hold the utility accountable. Meanwhile, San Diego County is spearheading efforts to help vaccinate workers employed in Baja California. Plus, a closer look at who's being allowed into the US and who is chosen to remain in Mexico.

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Wednesday, May 26th.

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The city signs the franchise deal with SDG&E.

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

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The latest numbers from San Diego County public health officials show that hospitalizations from the coronavirus have dropped into the double digits . On Tuesday the county reached 70% of its goal to vaccinate 75% of residents older than 12..by June 15th, when all remaining covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

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The federal government has allocated over $300 million dollars in covid relief funds to San Diego county.
county supervisor Jim Desmond wants $40 million dollars of that funding to go to first responders and military families with rent and mortgage payments.

“they’re willing to put their lives on the line for us and they’re the ones that when a fire is burning, they don’t run away from it, they run to it and so when we had this covid experience they’re the ones that ran out ahead to make it all safe for the rest of us and we owe them a bit of gratitude.”

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San Diego authorities charged a 28-year-old woman, now identified as Vyvianna Quinonez, with a felony battery after she allegedly attacked a flight attendant on a plane bound for San Diego. The flight attendant suffered injuries to her face, including losing two teeth. The incident is an example of an escalation of unruly behavior by airline passengers across the country. It’s led the flight attendants union to ask for more federal air marshals on planes.

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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.

On Tuesday, The San Diego City Council approved a 20-year contract that keeps SDG&E as the city's sole electricity and gas provider.

KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen says it was a contentious vote.

AB: Activists have been pressuring Mayor Todd Gloria to cut a shorter-term deal with SDG&E, which they say reaps massive profits while charging homes and businesses some of the highest energy rates in the county. The new agreement lets SDG&E continue to operate its equipment on city-owned land. In exchange the utility will pay the city $80 million, plus another $30 million for solar energy rebates and projects to adapt to climate change. The city can opt out of the deal after 10 years. But Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe said the city would have to pay back some of that money if it chooses that route.
MONICA MONTGOMERY STEPPE
SAN DIEGO CITY COUNCILMEMBER
We would essentially at 10 years be having to give up, by my account, close to 40 million dollars to get out of this. And so that's for me, constructively, it makes it very very hard to justify and to really make those offramps feasible.
AB: Councilmember Marni von Wilpert said the new contract is an improvement on the previous deal, and neither side got all it wanted.
MARNI VON WILPERT
SAN DIEGO CITY COUNCILMEMBER
But I appreciate the mayor pushed really hard to build transparency, compliance and accountability into this tough negotiation. I see we're taking steps on that path. We have an audit for the first time ever. We have a citizens oversight committee for the first time ever. So for these reasons I think the mayor got a better deal than the 2020 ITB under the previous administration and I will be voting yes.
AB: The final council vote was 6-3, with some minor last-minute changes. Among those: The city plans on conducting a feasibility study of taking over SDG&E's assets and forming a municipal utility. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news.

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activists gathered around San Diego City Hall today to protest the city budget proposed by Mayor Todd Gloria that would increase funding for police. KPBS Reporter Joe Hong spoke to protestors about where that money should go.

Community leaders from across San Diego spoke out against Gloria’s proposal to increase the police department’s budget by 19 million dollars. Jean-Huy (JOHN WEE) Tran is an organizer with the Center on Policy Initiatives based in San Diego.
NM__0105_01.MOV10;45;12;15JEAN-HUY TRAN /// CENTER ON POLICY INITIATIVESWhen the new mayor, when Mayor Gloria ran for his campaign with the slogan “mayor for all of us,” and his budget does not reflect that it is for all of us.
Almost exactly a year after the murder of George Floyd, activists like Tran are asking why this money isn’t going towards addressing homelessness or building parks for low-income neighborhoods.
NM__0105_01.MOV10;46;28;00We’re advocating for at least 10 million dollars reduction in police overtime. And shift the police function of responding to homelessness out of the police department to PATH who are better equipped.
Gennea (juh-NAY-uh) Wall is a member of the San Diego chapter of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. She said more money should be going to dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline.
NM__0106_01.MOV10;49;37;21GENNEA WALL // LOCAL ACTIVISTFocus on children and youth services for them to succeed, academically, creatively, whatever space they want to go into, you have to have those programs.
In defense of his budget, Gloria said most of the increase is due to pension costs that are mandated by law. Also, supporters of the police have cited a jump in violent crime as justification for the increases. San Diego City Council Members will present their amendments to the budget during a public meeting on Wednesday. The final budget will be approved by June. Joe Hong KPBS News.

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The county is spearheading cross-border efforts to help vaccinate maquiladora workers employed in Baja California. KPBS reporter Alexandra Rangel has more on the trans-border collaboration.

“At a time when vaccines are at a surplus in California, the county is making efforts to vaccinate 10-thousand maquiladora workers from Tijuana.”
“A line on a map does not stop our shared economy, a line on the map does not stop our shared culture and community.”
The County Board of Supervisors Chair, Nathan Fletcher, announced a new pilot project to vaccinate maquiladora employees at six United States subsidiary companies.
Aside from the county’s weekly vaccine allotment, the board was able to request 10-thousand additional Johnson and Johnson vaccines from the State to be used for the vaccination efforts.
With Mexico’s vaccine rollout moving at a slower pace than California, Fletcher says it’s the right thing to do.
Nathan Fletcher, County Board Supervisor
“We have more vaccines that are being utilized and we are in a position as a state to be a good neighbor and a good partner.”
As of Tuesday 68% of eligible San Diegans have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Meanwhile, the health department in Baja California is still working to vaccinate vulnerable populations and has struggled to provide second doses within the recommended time frame.
Fletcher highlighted the importance of making sure Mexico, our largest trading partner, has a healthy workforce.
Nathan Fletcher, County Board Supervisor
“We also know that the border crossing, both in people, but in goods and commerce is vital to the economy of both of our countries and our regions.”
The Consul General of Mexico, Carlos Gutierrez, says the vaccine will be at no cost to workers.
Carlos Gonzalez Gutierrez, Consul General of Mexico
“Vaccines are free, however there is an administrative fee that is covered directly by the employers. No taxpayer dollars are being used for this initiative.”
UC San Diego Health will be vaccinating about 15-hundred maquiladora workers each day at a mobile clinic site in San Ysidro. Alexandra Rangel, KPBS News.”

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Coming up.... a new agreement between the ACLU and the Biden administration means that more asylum-seekers can cross into the US…. despite a Trump-era ban that remains in place.

"People are now saying, the tent next to me is leaving because they’re crossing over to the United States finally. And that brought hope to people in the encampment, which also made people a lot more desperate to have their cases heard first.”

Who can enter the US, and who must stay in Mexico. That’s next, just after the break.

More asylum-seekers have been allowed to enter the United States. But they have to get their names put on a list. KPBS’ Max Rivlin-Nadler was on the ground in Tijuana, as it was decided who has to stay and who could enter.


The migrant camp in El Chaparral plaza in Tijuana has only grown in recent weeks.
Hundreds of asylum-seekers, from Central America, from Africa, from the Carribean, wait for the day the United States fully restores its asylum system along the southwest border….
A system first turned on its head by the Trump administration, stopped entirely during the pandemic…. then only haltingly reconstituted by the Biden administration.
But for the first time since the camp sprung up in February… there’s some hope.
A few families who had been living here are getting into the United States…escaping the cramped and dangerous spaces of the haphazard camp….
These are terrible conditions, you have kids just running around, it wasn’t until recently that the local government put in bathrooms and showers…. It’s been a struggle for them.
That’s Pedro Rios, with the American Friends Service Committee…. His organization is one of the few groups still making trips to the camp, to offer support, face masks, hygiene kits, and some advice, about this new way to safely enter the United States.
It’s part of a deal struck between the American Civil Liberties Union and the Biden Administration, stemming from a lawsuit challenging a migrant expulsion policy known as Title 42.
The deal now allows for 250 families or individuals to enter the United States along the southwest border each day, to pursue their asylum claims.
Deciding who ends up on the list that gets sent to the US government is up to these service providers on the ground in TIjuana.
It’s based not on their claims of asylum from their home countries, but how much danger they face in Mexico.
You can imagine how many petitions, are being handled at this time just at this port of entry alone.
Robert Vivar is swamped as he tries to make it through the encampment, looking for someone whose case he’s looking into. He’s with United Deported Veterans, and has an office just down the block from the camp.
Dozens of desperate people ask him when they’ll get a call back from overworked immigration lawyers…. Or tell him their child is sick, and in danger….. There’s just no way for Vivar to help everyone, but he’s trying.
It’s kind of difficult to tell people to have patience, when they’re running away because of persecution, but it’s not safe, even here they’ve had threats, they’ve been followed. You can understand why they’d be so desperate for information.
Right now, the focus has been to locate pregnant women, people with pressing medical needs, and those in immediate danger in Mexico.
But migrants without working papers, or homes, are constantly under threat in Mexico.
Rafa Enterreano, a member of the LGBT community, is one of those people who could have a strong asylum case were he allowed into the US….. He says he fled Honduras after his house was burned down, he was beaten, and his friends were killed.
He’s been living in Tijuana for more than a year, waiting to enter the United States.
Under the current arrangement, he’s not being prioritized, though.
Hace duro por que los abogados quien venido, son abogados voluntarios, y solo aplican para familias, solo ninos, o persons con enfermedades, somos solteros, madres solteros, padres, mucho persona de lgbt, no tenemos representacion, nadie. Bien deficil, a vivir solo en este situation.
He says it’s been hard, because the volunteer lawyers that come, they’re asking for families, for people with serious illnesses… so he can’t find representation, it’s really hard to be alone for a situation like this one.
Every morning and afternoon, Customs and Border Protection agents call out names at the port of entry in Tijuana.
Late Thursday afternoon, several families entered the United States…. To begin an asylum process that will take years to resolve…
Dulce Garcia, the Executive Director of Border Angels, spent three weeks working in the encampment, finding the people who can get to safety now.
Including some of those who entered last week.
People are now saying, the tent next to me is leaving because they’re crossing over to the United States finally. And that brought hope to people in the encampment, which also made people a lot more desperate to have their cases heard first.
Garcia hopes that this system won’t last much longer — pressure is growing on the Biden administration to drop Title 42 and restore the asylum system along the border.
Until that happens, the encampment at El Chaparral won’t be going anywhere, Robert Vivar says. As more people leave, more people take their spot. Max Rivlin-Nadler, KPBS News

That was KPBS reporter Max Rivlin Nadler

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.