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San Diego County considers $3 million more for migrants

 December 4, 2023 at 5:00 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Monday, December 4th.

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The county will soon vote on spending an additional 3 million dollars to serve migrants.

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

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More people in the county are falling into homelessness, than becoming housed.

That's according to a new report from the Regional Task Force on Homelessness.

Between September 20-22 and October of this year, an average of 10 people found housing for every 16 people who became unhoused for the first time.

That's slightly up from the previous year’s report.

The task force's C-E-O says most people exited homelessness by renting-- either with or without a subsidy-- rather than through permanent supportive housing.

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Five orange trees with ‘citrus greening’ disease have recently been detected in Valley Center.

The Asian citrus psyllid is the pest that spreads the bacterial disease.

The county says it’s a major threat to its citrus crop.

Citrus brings over 100 million dollars into the county each year.

Valley Center is the third area in the county to have had a positive detection… joining Oceanside and Rancho Bernardo in quarantine.

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The San Diego City Council will be choosing a council president today (Monday)... and current council president Sean Elo-Rivera is seeking another year in the position.

Metro reporter Andrew Bowen says the council president runs council meetings, gives out committee assignments and controls the council's agendas.

“Past council presidents have taken a backseat, letting the mayor's office lead on policy making. But for the past two years, Council President Sean Elo-Rivera has pursued his own progressive agenda on issues like tenant protections and affordable housing. He's also sought to push Mayor Todd Gloria to the left on those matters.”

No other council members have declared that they want to take over the council presidency.

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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.

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The San Diego County Supervisors tomorrow, will consider whether to provide an additional 3 million dollars for migrants.

Border reporter Gustavo Solis has details.

County officials say Customs and Border Protection has released 42,000 migrants into San Diego County since September And the numbers show no signs of slowing down. This is prompting the County Board of Supervisors to consider providing more funding to serve migrants. County Supervisors already allocated $3 million to fund a Migrant Welcome Center in October. The money  was awarded to the South Bay nonprofit, SBCS. The center offers free food and access to wifi. Phone chargers and volunteers who can help migrants with travel arrangements. Most people at the center don’t stay long in San Diego. They travel elsewhere to connect with sponsors, friends or relatives. The $3 million was originally meant to last three months. However, the center is in danger of running out of money as soon as next week. Gustavo Solis, KPBS News.

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Big commercial banks have received a bad rap in recent years for excessive overdraft fees…. but turns out… it's big business for credit unions too.

Investigative reporter Scott Rodd…. Is here with me to discuss his recent reporting on this.

Hi Scott.

Hi Debbie … So tell us what you discovered about overdraft fees at credit unions…both statewide and here in san diego. background…big banks required to disclose… reason there’s been scrutiny…aaron klein, senior fellow brookings “the only people who pay overdrafts are those who run out of money. as the amount of americans who live paycheck-to-paycheck has risen…financial institutions have figured out ways and tricks to increase overdraft use, which pad their profit.” credit unions haven’t had to dislose financial watchdogs  blindspot that changed in ca. new law requires state-chartered credit unions and banks… cus: $250m by comparison, banks: about $73m how important was this overdraft revenue stream for credit unions? significant for many…over a dozen, it made up more than half of the credit union’s net income. for some, more than 100% of net income…that means… you also dug into the financial records of these credit unions...and looked at salary for executives. what did you find? reviewed financial records for more than half a dozen cus in sd…over $36m at several, executive comp ballooned most glaring example…sdccu their ceo, teresa campbell…total comp nearly $12 million…roughly $10m increase over the last decade. other executives saw their compensation double or triple. klein took exception… “that's a type of reverse robin hood and that is not really in fulfilling with the spirit or mission of serving low-income people.” so millions of dollars in revenue from overdraft fees…and big pay increases for some executives at these credit unions. what did customers have to say about this? i spoke to several…expressed frustration curtis fitzgerald…escondido…his 20-y/o son is a member at sdccu sdccu auto enrolled son in overdraft program…son racked up a bunch of $32 overdraft fees. fitzgerald felt this was taking advantage of a young customer with little money…and then when he found out how much sdccu’s ceo is making, he was taken aback. “i feel it's wrong. i feel like it’s something we’d expect from a bank, not a credit union. it seems like they're more about making money for themselves.” this was something we heard from multiple customers—that relying on overdraft fees as a source of revenue seemed to conflict with cus friendly-neighbor image and ethos. and what did the credit unions have to say about this? reached out to half-dozen+ cus in sd area…and ca cu trade association…only one responded: frontwave credit union. brought in nearly $8m in od last year…140% of net income. frontwave ceo bill birnie said overdraft not predatory…in fact, can be a benefit…bridge at end of month. “it's a service to them. they know how it works. they opted into the service.…in my perspective, it should be the consumer's choice of how they choose to manage their money.” going back to exec pay…we found birnie’s compensation had tripled over the last several years…claimed clerical error on their irs statements…conflated base pay and retirement pay. worth noting that big banks have reformed their overdraft policies in recent years, following pressure…unclear if cus plan the same

TAG: Scott, thank you for all this information and for joining me on the San Diego News Now podcast.

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Southern San Diego County may get a break from the persistent cross-border sewage flows that have fouled the ocean and endangered public health.

Environment reporter Erik Anderson says a Mexican pipe repair could get credit.

Federal officials say they are optimistic that a pipeline repair on the Mexican side of the border will significantly reduce the amount of tainted water flowing into the United States. The 42-inch pipe will carry dirty water away from the border and funnel it south of Tijuana. The International Boundary and Water Commission’s Maria-Elena Giner is cautious. Maria-Elena Giner, IBWC “We aren’t really excited about it and not doing a lot of hoopla over it because we want to make sure it’s working.  Because they actually built a brand new pipe.  And they did it in record time.” Crews will pressure test the line over the weekend and should know more next week. Billions of gallons of contaminated flows have crossed the border since the summer of 20-22 when the previous pipe broke. Erik Anderson KPBS News.

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In other environment-related news… a report out last week for the U-S Department of Energy outlines what a rich source of lithium Imperial Valley is.

Sci-tech reporter Thomas Fudge got reaction from a company that’s getting ready to mine it.

The report by the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab said there’s an estimated 18 million tons of raw lithium in the brine that flows below the surface of Imperial County. Enough to make 375 million electric car batteries. Eric Spomer is CEO of San Diego-based EnergySource minerals, which plans to build a billion dollar plant to extract the lithium. He said he wasn’t surprised by the report, and believed it to be accurate, though it didn’t consider the challenge of extracting it.  “I do think there’s a lot of lithium there. I think there’s a lot of geothermal power there. I think the possibility that it’s all recoverable is a little bit, maybe aggressive.” He says when mining begins the US needs to have facilities where they can turn it into batteries. He says the Inflation Reduction Act has incentivized the building of those battery plants. SOQ. 

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Coming up.... San Diego’s rising rents have scattered L-G-B-T-Q-PLUS substance recovery groups.

“They've all dispersed and they've gone away. And those anchors for the newcomers and each other as old timers are gone. And I was like, wow, I couldn’t – it was, it was shocking.”

We’ll have that story and more, just after the break.

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County leaders could delay implementation of a new law that expands who can be involuntarily held, on what is known as a 51-50.

Health reporter Matt Hoffman says supervisors are voting on it tomorrow (Tuesday).

The new law means more people can be involuntarily treated or put into a conservatorship.. Senate Bill 43 expands the definition of ‘gravely disabled’ -- to include those with a ‘severe substance abuse disorder’ who cannot ‘provide for their own safety or medical care’.. That expansion is set to take effect in January -- but counties can opt to delay implementation.. Something County Board Chair Nora Vargas wants to push to 2025. Local hospitals support the delay. Chris Van Gorder is CEO of Scripps Health. Van Gorder The year really gives this county time to plan and prepare and coordinate so that we all know what we’re going to be doing and how we’re going to manage this. Remember this law is supposed to go into effect in less than a month  -- and nobody has any discussion on coordination and how we’re going to do that Van Gorder says hospital emergency rooms are already extremely busy.. San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria says there’s too much at stake to delay implementation for a year.. And  any change at this point is better than the status quo. MH KPBS News.

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San Diego's rising rents have left L-G-B-T-Q-PLUS substance abuse recovery groups, searching for a permanent home.

Reporter Katie Hyson spoke with members about why it’s needed.

Music from Auntie Helen’s thrift store in North Park filters into the back room, where substance use recovery groups meet. Most are former members of the Live and Let Live Alano Club recovery center in Hillcrest, a prominent LGBTQ+ neighborhood. It was safe. I was able to be myself. That’s Michael Hoover. I was able to speak freely and openly about my addiction problems and the fact that I am a gay person. He says that often wasn’t the case in heteronormative recovery groups elsewhere in the city. Another former member, Alexis Gabrielle, echoed this. Sometimes when we walk the streets of San Diego, we do see the people on the side of the street that are down and out. I was one of those people. She found Live and Let Live a few years ago. I was able to find a safe place when I was feeling uncomfortable. And by doing so, I was able to work on myself very deep . . . I call it my 911. A lifesaver. Many former members say the same – that Live and Let Live was often the thing standing between them and using again. It was open all day, with a wide range of recovery meetings, not just for substance use. Volunteers were always around to talk. Wearing a sparkling gown and crown, Alexis Gabrielle tells me she learned a vital lesson there. That we can rise from where we were before without shame and hold our heads high . . . But the doors closed. Live and Let Live didn’t own the building. San Diego rents began to skyrocket, compounding already existing financial trouble. After nearly four decades, they closed last fall. The dozens of support groups scattered throughout the city, to locations that weren’t as well suited. Many say downtown locations trigger their urge to use again. Churches can carry baggage. And while Live and Let Live was nearby, many now have to take buses or walk long distances to get to meetings. It doesn’t always feel safe, they say. Especially with recent anti-LGBTQ+ legislation across the country. Hoover again. I'm personally tired of always having to look behind my back, over my shoulder on buses and walking. He says meeting attendance dropped sharply after Live and Let Live closed. They've all dispersed and they've gone away . . .  I was like, wow. I couldn’t – it was, it was shocking. Auntie Helen’s stepped up. It used to be a laundry service for people living with HIV/AIDS at a time when many refused to even touch their clothing. It’s offered support to San Diego’s LGBTQ+ people for decades. Management allowed some of the displaced recovery groups to clear out the back room and move in 50 chairs and a podium. But the space closes as soon as the meetings end. It doesn’t offer the same any-time safety net of a recovery center. That’s why Heather Paetow is now searching for a permanent home. I am actually one of the unusual people who doesn't do the pronoun thing because I did 20 years in the military where I actually had to use they them their and things to kind of disguise my relationship. So it's sort of like an uncomfortable thing. Paetow didn’t feel safe to enter San Diego’s LGBT center. But Paetow did feel safe to attend Live and Let Live, where the association with LGBTQ+ people was maybe less obvious to outside observers. There, Paetow could be rigorously honest – one of the core tenets of recovery. Paetow and Paetow’s partner launched a nonprofit and are now hoping to own a building to replace that lost space. They plan to name it the Lambda Uptown Alano Club. Lambda as a nod to the symbol of gay and lesbian rights. Uptown as the intended location. With all the high rises that have been built in the Hillcrest area, a lot of the LGBT community has migrated more toward North Park.  They say they’ve asked local leaders about unused government buildings, but haven’t heard back. When I spoke with them, they didn’t know that Auntie Helen’s is about to close, too, on Dec. 31. The owner told me after 36 years, the rent is more than they can afford. He says he negotiated for the groups to have continued use of the back room. Katie Hyson, KPBS News. 

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That’s it for the podcast today. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. Join us again tomorrow for the day’s top stories. I’m Debbie Cruz. Thanks for listening and have a great Monday.

The San Diego County Supervisors on Tuesday will consider whether to provide an additional $3 million for migrants. In other news, big commercial banks have received a bad rap in recent years for excessive overdraft fees, but it turns out it's big business for credit unions too. Plus, San Diego’s rising rents have scattered LGBTQ+ substance abuse recovery groups.