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Costly transportation plan

 December 9, 2021 at 9:01 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Thursday, December 9th

A costly new regional transportation plan More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….######

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Majorkas visited the San Ysidro port of entry on Tuesday. He came to celebrate reopening the border for non-essential visitors. During his visit, Mayorkas warned migrants from crossing the border illegally.

"Individuals should not put their life savings in the hands of smuggling organizations that exploit their vulnerability.”

A federal judge ordered the Biden administration to resurrect a controversial Trump-era policy known as Remain in Mexico. Critics say the policy blocks access to asylum and causes desperate migrants to try to enter the US illegally.


A judge says a high school for foster children in escondido can stay open… while its supporters pursue a lawsuit to keep it open for good. The san pasqual academy was slated to be shut down next summer, because of changes in the law regarding group foster homes. Its supporters say the academy is a boarding school and should get a legal carve-out.


San ysidro is slated to get its first new neighborhood park in 25-years.

On wednesday interior secretary Deb Haaland was joined by state parks officials along with san diego mayor todd gloria, to announce the design and construction of beyer (buy-er) park. Here's mayor gloria…

“This is an opportunity to invest in a community that has been underrepresented and underinvested in for decades, and this is an opportunity for us to build something that future generations of San Diegans will certainly cherish and enjoy.”

The park will feature a grassy field, dog parks, and a skate park.


From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now.Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

Elected officials from across San Diego County will vote tomorrow on a 30-year transportation plan that aims to shift commuter habits away from cars in favor of biking, walking and public transit.

KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen explains what's in the plan, and why it's become so controversial.

AB: Evening rush hour is starting on the I-5 freeway in Barrio Logan. That's where I meet Carolina Martinez, climate justice director for the nonprofit Environmental Health Coalition. The damage this freeway has caused Barrio Logan is palpable, from the high levels of toxic air pollution to the deafening noise.



CM: "The regional plan is trying to undo the history of disinvestment in communities like Barrio Logan. And we see frequency increases in the transit system, 24-hour service, a study to improve the Blue Line that goes to the South Bay, as well as bathrooms and essential services that are really key in making the transit system successful."

HI: So big picture, this is about reimagining the future of transportation in San Diego.

AB: The mastermind behind the transportation plan is Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of the county's planning agency SANDAG. He acknowledges the plan is expensive, costing 163 billion dollars over three decades. But he says there's a lot the plan would pay for, including new high-speed subway lines from National City to Sorrento Valley and El Cajon to Hillcrest.



HI: "If you decide not to drive to certain areas, or if you decide to own one car instead of two, this system will … fill that vacuum for you, not having that second car, or having a car at all in some cases."

AB: Among the biggest changes compared to previous transportation plans is how this one treats highways. SANDAG has abandoned projects that would widen freeways, instead opting to convert existing lanes and freeway shoulders into new managed lanes open to carpools, buses and solo drivers willing to pay a toll. Ikhrata says past leaders weren't being honest when they claimed expanding freeways would relieve congestion. That's because of the well-documented phenomenon of "latent demand," when the wider freeway attracts more drivers and congestion returns.

HI: Expanding freeways — it's been proven again and again, here and somewhere else in the world, that just by continuing to expand, with latent demand kicking in, it doesn't work. It just doesn't work, it's not a solution.

AB: Critics have blasted the plan on multiple fronts, from its relatively high cost to the nixing of those freeway widenings. But the sharpest criticism has been targeted at the so-called "road user charge." Motorists would pay 2 cents to SANDAG for every mile they drive in the county. It wouldn't happen until 2030, the same year public transit would become free. Ikhrata understands the opposition, but says the policy is useful on two fronts: it raises money to pay for the infrastructure and helps SANDAG achieve targets set by the state to reduce driving.

HI: If you ask me what's the most cost effective strategy in this vision we have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions it's the road user charge.

AB: Colin Parent heads the nonprofit Circulate San Diego. He supports most of what's in SANDAG's plan, especially the relatively cheap and easy transit improvements like rapid bus routes.



CP: And that is likely to mean more frequency so people can get where they're going faster, they don't have to wait as long for the bus. And hopefully it can also include some protected bus-only facilities to make sure that the bus is not caught up in regular traffic, especially during now when there is a lot of traffic in this rush hour.

AB: Where Parent is skeptical is in SANDAG's funding strategy. He fears the push for expensive projects like commuter rail lines decades in the future will be a distraction from the need for solutions now. And if voters say "no" to new taxes that would fund the projects, he says SANDAG needs a plan b.

CP: And so we want to be optimistic with our revenue, but not so optimistic that we're planning for things that we could never hope to actually build.

AB: Key leaders on SANDAG's board of directors last week came out against the 2-cent-per-mile fee on drivers. That means even if the transportation plan is approved on Friday, SANDAG will almost immediately have to start revising it. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news.


Rapid technological change has given law enforcement more access to data about what people do and where they go than ever before. And that’s especially true of cities like Chula Vista, along the US Mexico border. Privacy advocates say Chula Vista has become one of the most surveilled cities in the country.

KPBS’s Amita Sharma reports.

Chula miles from the border with Mexico...has an unwelcome distinction.

“On a per capita basis, they're probably the most or one of the most surveilled cities in the country.

That’s Brian Hofer...executive director of the privacy advocacy group Secure Justice.

He says some of that surveillance is no different than you’d find in most American cities. “....Your cell phones, which are constantly pinning towers as you move around the city, revealing your location, your travel patterns and associations….”

Chula Vista’s border town status means the tech eyes and ears of US Customs and Border Protection are also in the mix.

Think advanced radar systems and surveillance towers.

Here’s ACLU attorney Shaw Drake.

”....Border residents may never know that their information is being collected. But essentially, the government is able to put together a map of people's movements, either through incident times in which they're crossing the border itself, but also traveling through border communities.”

Add in the Chula Vista Police Department’s own tools and there is a whole lot of tech keeping watch.

The city has invested in license plate readers.

And low flying drones that serve as first responders.

Here’s Chula Vista Police Captain Eric Thunberg.

”It can fly as the crow flies. It's not reliant on city streets. It can give us essentially live views of what's occurring to help us plan our approach so that we can make the smartest approach so that we don't go in there and make the situation any worse.”

Chula Vista has come under fire for what it gathers through police technology...and how it shares that data.

Last year, news broke that Chula Vista PD had shared data collected from its four automated license plate readers with immigration officials. (b-roll of Thunberg)

“It really did break community trust.”

Human rights activist Pedro Rios says the data sharing contradicted Chula Vista’s designation as a Welcoming City for immigrants AND ran counter to state law.

”...which says that resources from local jurisdictions shouldn't be used to provide immigration enforcement information that could then lead to arrests and detentions and deportations.”

Thunberg is hoping the community will give the department a chance at redemption, a process he says will require police to embrace criticism and engage in dialogue with residents. “We can’t do our job if they don’t trust us.”

He says the Chula Vista PD stopped sharing the data directly with ICE and Border Patrol earlier this year.

The department now says it only shares license plate data for specific investigations with California law enforcement agencies.

Chula Vista Mayor Mary Salas is defensive – or in her words a mama bear – when it comes to police and technology.

She is certain her city’s officers don’t misuse data. She bristles at word label “surveillance.” Salas says the devices are vital to their work…as she sees it, the department is understaffed.

[”....We don't buy just a shiny object to have it. Everything that we adopt is for a purpose. And it's been thoroughly vetted.”

The city is working on plans to create an oversight panel for police use of technology.

Ricardo Medina, who sits on the city’s Human Relations Commission, wants it to include civil rights lawyers and tech experts.

“There needs to be a body that is independent, that has an opportunity to interrogate, to probe, to look at empirical evidence, cost benefit analysis and anecdotal data as well.”

“...we'll be a part of that and be a player.”

Once that body is created early next year, it is expected to help draft a privacy policy for tech use. But concerns are likely to linger...because Chula Vista PD just built a real-time operations center where all of the city’s policing data will be assembled in one place.

We’ll have that story tomorrow.


San Diego County was the first to declare a public health crisis over misinformation about COVID-19. Part of the county’s strategy to fight it – was to hold regular medical panels to address misinformation shared during public comment at the Board of Supervisors’ meetings. KPBS Reporter Kitty Alvarado has more.

COVID doesn’t exist Poisonous vaccines Outside these walls COVID doesn’t exist

That’s just a taste of what was shared during public comment about COVID-19 during Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors’ meeting.

In September the Board voted to declare misinformation a public health crisis...

and now after every meeting, public comment misinformation about the virus is compiled and IS discussed the next day by a panel of doctors on a publicly accessible zoom meeting

Dr Christian Ramers, the chief of population health at the Family Health Centers of San Diego is one of the panelists …

Misinformation travels so much faster than good scientific information.

He says while it’s hard to fight the avalanche of constant misinformation, it’s important to start somewhere and these panels are a great start. KA KPBS News


Undocumented students at San Diego Mesa College now have a safe space to go for support with their immigration issues.

KPBS Education Reporter M.G. Perez has more on the DREAMER Resource Center..

The DREAMER Resource Center at Mesa College now provides free legal services, career counseling, education workshops and anything undocumented students need to feel supported and accepted. Giovani Sanchez Aguilar is a DACA student who had to drop out of school when his father was deported. Now he’s back at Mesa to finish his degree.

“It’s kind of like a home, it’s a safe place, I can be around people who are like me and I don’t have to hide who I am.”

The DREAMER Resource Center was paid for with grant money, donations, and state funding. Right now, Mesa College officials say 4-hundred-50 students on campus are eligible for the help. MGP ...KPBS News


Starting on January first, workers within San Diego city limits will receive a minimum wage increase from 14 to 15 dollars an hour. KPBS Speak City Heights reporter Jacob Aere looks at what the wage bump means for local residents and businesses.

On busy El Cajon Boulevard there is no shortage of small businesses.

One of those storefronts is Lili Kouture, which specializes in West African designs and clothing from Togo.

Owner Lili Lare says she understands the need for higher wages in an increasingly expensive California… but wishes there was a way to help small businesses afford to hire people.

“That’s all I can say because you can't stop them from raising the minimum wage. People have to live too. They need that money to survive because of the rent and everything… and myself here, the rent is going to go up next month.”

All city of San Diego businesses will be required to pay workers $15 per hour in 2022, as will businesses with more than 26 employees across California. Jacob Aere, KPBS News.


Coming up.... The US Surgeon general has issued a warning about a mental health crisis among children. We’ll have an interview about what that means, just after the break.

“It would be a tragedy if we beat back one public health crisis only to allow another to grow in its place.”

Those are the words of U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy from his public health advisory issued on Tuesday on children’s mental health. The advisory is meant to focus attention on an increased rate of depression and anxiety being diagnosed in children...much of it apparently arising from the stress of the Covid 19 Pandemic.

The advisory calls for government, social media companies, schools, and parents to respond with more mental health resources. But, it’s not clear if all those entities are up to the challenge.

Dr. Willough Jenkins is the Medical director of inpatient psychiatry at Rady Children’s Hospital. She spoke to KPBS Midday Edition Host Maureen Kavanaugh about the advisory.

And just as a warning to listeners, some of the following discussion will concern suicide and suicidal ideation...which some people might find disturbing.

Now, this Public health advisory says that symptoms of depression and anxiety among youth have doubled during the pandemic. Is this something that you've seen treating patients?

Speaker 2: (01:10)

Absolutely. We have seen a huge increase in the number of children that have been coming to the inpatient side of the hospital at radi children's during the pandemic we have had just as an example from September, 2020 to August, 2021. So about six month period, we had 3000, almost 3000 children endorse suicidal ideation. When they came through our emergency room, this is a staggering number. And so absolutely we see more and more depression and anxiety presenting since the start of the pandemic

Speaker 1: (01:41)

And how young are the children affected.

Speaker 2: (01:43)

They can be quite young. And that's something that we've noticed over the last 10 years that children are presenting younger and younger. So for depression and anxiety, we can see this down to toddlerhood for the suicidal ideation. Typically we're seeing children down to eight, not usually less than that, but for us, that's far too young.

Speaker 1: (02:03)

And how do younger children exhibit depression or anxiety? So

Speaker 2: (02:07)

For young children, typically what you'll see is more disruptions in their behavior. Maybe they're acting out more, getting into more trouble at school, being a little bit more irritable or short tempered. And of course, disruptions in sleep, not sleeping as well, changes in appetite. These are other signs that your young child might be struggling because they don't always have the capacity to be able to tell you I'm depressed. I'm anxious. Now, one

Speaker 1: (02:32)

Of the most disturbing statistics is that suspected suicide attempts by adolescent girls were up 51% in early 20, 21 over last year is social isolation thought to be the main cause of suicidal depression among young girls.

Speaker 2: (02:49)

It would be difficult to say it's the main cause. But I think it certainly is a factor that the pandemic is amplified. We know that the amount of social media use screen time use has increased exponentially with the pandemic and that the quality of these relationships is not the same as in-person relationships. And it leads to feelings, loneliness, and isolation. And so it's been a very large contributor in the last two years, but it's certainly not been the only one issues of racial injustice. The political year has been very divisive. These are all other issues that have been affecting our adolescents. And

Speaker 1: (03:23)

What other problems are you hearing about that kids are experiencing?

Speaker 2: (03:27)

Well, I think one of the things that is the most striking is that it's children that are marginalized and underserved are youth of color that are being disproportionately affected by the mental health crisis. And so it issues like I just mentioned of racial injustice, the political divisiveness, even things as the climate emergency, these issues are weighing heavily on our adolescence and are huge factors. In addition to all of the impact that the pandemic has brought both on youth directly and indirectly through the impact on their families. Now, when in

Speaker 1: (03:59)

And schools opened up again, we heard that most kids were very happy about it, but apparently the transition back has been hard for some students. There are anecdotal reports of more absenteeism and acting out at school what's causing this. You know,

Speaker 2: (04:15)

It is difficult to say, cause it's gonna be individual to the environment and also to the student. But for some students, especially those with disabilities, the transition back to the classroom has been quite difficult. Resources have changed the way things have been set up to support students looks different than it did pre pandemic and retaining staff in different school settings. I know this is the case in San Diego has been challenging. So it makes the comedy and resources to support students that may need extra support less than what they were. So this can create more problems. In addition, youth have been accustomed to being at home, doing things over the computer. And so for some, it was actually preferable. If you'd been bullied or had difficulties with social interactions, perhaps being online was easier than returning to in person. So a lot of different factors for sure,

Speaker 1: (05:06)

You alluded to this earlier and many child psychologists say the problems of anxiety and depression were already growing among children even before the pandemic. So do you see this as an ongoing problem,

Speaker 2: (05:18)

The pandemic exacerbated and already existing problem? I used the example that at radi children's hospital, we'd seen an huge increase, exponential increase in the need for mental health. That before the pandemic started, we were planning to open a specialized psychiatric emergency room. And as luck would have it, you know, in a sad way, the pandemic started in the need even went further up. So we were able to open our specialized psychiatric emergency room in the pandemic, and it's been full since. So absolutely the need was there before. And the pandemic has just worsened. This crisis that was already present.

Speaker 1: (05:51)

What signs should a family look for? If they suspect their child is going through some sort of difficult mental health disturbance,

Speaker 2: (05:59)

A change in their behavior is key. If they're withdrawing from the family, not doing things that they normally enjoy, not hanging out with their friends or changing friend groups, these are all signs that something has gone astray, difficulty sleeping is key changing in appetite, not feeling as energized. These are also signs that something's not going well. And of course the obvious is if your child is talking about it saying, I feel sad. I just don't feel the same. I'm feeling really worried. I'm feeling really anxious. And that's why it's so important to be really direct with children. And just ask, how are you feeling? Are you you feeling sad and of course asking directly about suicide as well. It's a unfortunately common enough phenomenon in youth that as parents, as teachers, as people working with children, we need to be directly asking them, have you had suicidal thoughts asking about suicide does not cause suicide. If anything, it saves lives. The,

Speaker 1: (06:57)

In general says, communities need to respond quickly with a wide ranging approach to confront children's mental health problems. What would you like to see in that response?

Speaker 2: (07:08)

I would like to see some more funding to be able to allow for expansion of existing programs. And I think that that needs to come from the federal level and it needs to allow access to all families. I also think that we need to very much improve school-based mental health care treatment provide more support to the schools. They are at the front lines. It's the school teachers, the counselors that are identifying children, you know, at risk. And also we need to improve integration into our primary care and pediatric offices because for the, in this line of work, we believe that prevention is key. These mental health issues are preventable. They are treatable, and we need to catch children early.

That was Dr. Willough Jenkins, Medical director of inpatient psychiatry at Rady Children’s Hospital. She was speaking with KPBS Midday Edition host Maureen Kavanaugh.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

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’s regional planning agency has drafted a regional transportation plan for the future that seeks to shift San Diego County away from cars by building massive improvements to public transit infrastructure. But critics say the plan is unrealistic and too expensive. Meanwhile, advocates say Chula Vista is now one of the most surveilled cities in the country. Plus, the U.S. surgeon general warns about a looming mental health crisis among children.