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The race for San Diego's sheriff

 May 18, 2022 at 5:00 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Wednesday, May 18th


Who’s running for San Diego County sheriff

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


San Diego’s ambulance provider, Falck, could be facing more than 400-thousand dollars in fines for not meeting its contract terms. That’s according to San Diego city council documents. Falck won San Diego’s 911 contract last year and took over in November. But by early March the company's first contract update found that it was understaffing ambulances and not providing the level of service promised. Falck says covid-19 outbreaks among staff and hiring challenges complicated their operations. The company is set for another contract update today at a city council committee meeting.


The sale of flavored tobacco products in San Diego is officially banned come January. In April, the San Diego city council passed the first reading of the ordinance that puts the ban in place. Yesterday they approved the second reading, making it official

The move follows similar actions taken by imperial beach, encinitas, solana beach, and for san diego county’s unincorporated areas.

A statewide referendum will also tackle the issue in november.


San Diego's Homebrewing Company has announced its closing down. The news comes about a week after it was awarded top brewery in the state of California by Yelp-dot-com. Owner George Thornton says the store officially closes this Sunday. Homebrewing company has been supplying and teaching homebrewers in San Diego for a decade.


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

San Diego hasn’t had a new Sheriff in over a decade—but that is changing now, as voters choose the replacement for retired Sheriff Bill Gore. KPBS reporter Claire Trageser introduces us to the candidates.

There are seven people running for Sheriff. KPBS reached out to all of them, and heard back from three. We caught up with those three on the campaign trail.

John Hemmerling

San Diego Sheriff Candidate

“John Hemmerling, I am the candidate for Sheriff here in 2022. I am endorsed by the Republican Party. I have 30 year plus public service between my time in the Marine Corps, my time at the Police Department, and my time as the chief criminal prosecutor.”

Kelly Martinez

San Diego Sheriff Candidate

“I'm Kelly Martinez. I've been with the Sheriff's Department for 37 years. I've worked my way up through the ranks, and I'm currently the under Sheriff. I run the day to day operations of the Department.”

Dave Myers

San Diego Sheriff Candidate

“My name is Dave Myers, and I am running for San Diego County Sheriff. Born and raised here in San Diego, I spent 35 years in law enforcement. I've worked my way up through the Sheriff's Department to commander.”

We asked the candidates what they thought was the biggest issue facing the Sheriff’s Department. John Hemmerling says it’s the high number of deaths in San Diego jails. A state audit says the department should require mental health screenings at intake and more interaction between nurses and inmates, among other changes.

John Hemmerling

San Diego Sheriff Candidate

“The first thing is to make sure all of the things that were recommended from the state audit were implemented. I think there's many other things that they talk about in there. Some of the best practices from the state board as well that can be looked at. Some best practices from the national boards as well that we're going to take a look at.”

Kelly Martinez says it’s hiring more staff, which leads to better care in jails.

Kelly Martinez

San Diego Sheriff Candidate

“We lost a lot of people in the last couple of years, so we need to hire about 400 people, both nurses and deputies. And then once the hiring is so key because all of the other things hinge on having enough staff.”

Dave Myers says the biggest issue is restoring trust in the department.

Dave Myers

San Diego Sheriff Candidate

“Sheriff's leadership has created an environment in which mistrust is the status quo in the Sheriff's office, that the current status quo is not going to stop jail deaths, that the status quo in Sheriff's leadership now is not going to address racial bias in policing.”

Hemmerling is an assistant city attorney in San Diego. He says his leadership experience makes him most qualified for the job.

John Hemmerling

San Diego Sheriff Candidate

“I spent almost a decade as a police officer, working most of that time was in City Heights, where I worked and beat there in City Heights. I left there as a field training officer. I then went to law school while I was working at the Sango Police Department, working my beat to become a better person for the community, a better person for myself.”

Martinez, currently the undersheriff for the department, says she has direct experience leading the department.

Kelly Martinez

San Diego Sheriff Candidate

“Nobody knows the Sheriff's Department or our county better than I do. And I've already been working towards all of these changes and initiatives that we need to make our community safe.”

Meanwhile Myers, who’s a retired Sheriff’s commander, says he can help diversify the department.

Dave Myers

San Diego Sheriff Candidate

“Create an environment in which the department of 4,700 positions reflects the community we're policing, that the community members who want to be in law enforcement live in the communities we're policing.”

The Sheriff is a nonpartisan office, but party politics are still playing a role in the race. Hemmerling was an independent voter, but in 2020 changed to the Republican Party and has their backing. He says despite the county’s majority of Democrat voters, he can be elected.

John Hemmerling

San Diego Sheriff Candidate

“No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, you want to be safe in your neighborhood. It's the number one job of government is to be to provide safety and security and public safety.”

Meanwhile Martinez was a Republican, but changed her party to Democrat in November 2020 and has the backing of many well known Democrats, including San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. She says her decision to change parties was personal.

Kelly Martinez

San Diego Sheriff Candidate

“It was done before I decided to run for Sheriff. But the Sheriff's not partisan. The job of public safety really doesn't fall in one party or another.

Myers also changed his party from Republican to Democrat in 2016, and has the endorsement of the local Democratic Party. He ran for sheriff in 2018 and lost, but says it’ll be different this time.

Dave Myers

San Diego Sheriff Candidate

“I was a full time commander at the time. What's different this time as I'm retired? I'm not a full time commander. I'm not getting picked on. I'm not getting marginalized. I'm not getting discriminated against for my message in 2018.”

The top two vote-getters in the primary June 7 will advance to the November general election.



Voters are deciding on the sheriff’s race and more in the primary. Kim Alexander is with the non-partisan California Voter Foundation.

"There is a lot for voters to know about this election. One of the most important things voters need to know is that they're in new political districts."

Hundreds of thousands of voters in the state were shifted to those new legislative and congressional districts based on the 2020 Census.

Alexander says that means your representatives may have changed.

And she says you should've received your election materials by now.

"If you have not gotten anything in the mail from your county, like your ballot or your Secretary of State Voter Guide, you're probably not registered at your current address. So now is a really great time to check your status and make sure you're registered."

You can check your status on the Secretary of State's website.

San Diegans can also go to SD-VOTE-DOT-COM.


San Diego Gas and electric officials have started the formal process to change the rates they charge for gas and electricity. KPBS Environment Reporter Erik Anderson has details.

The utility has formally submitted a budget to California regulators, asking to raise rates by around nine dollars a month for gas and a similar amount for electric rates in 2024. The utility’s Scott Crider says the company needs to upgrade the grid to handle expected increases in electricity consumption, incorporate green fuels, and harden transmission lines in the backcountry.

“In some cases we’re strategically undergrounding additional lines especially in the back country. And we’re also continuing to put up stronger poles and wires to make sure that we don’t have one of our facilities cause a fire.”

SDGE officials say they expect electricity consumption to double by 2045. The initial spending blueprint starts an 18-month process by regulators to adjust power rates in the region.

Erik Anderson KPBS News


The San Diego City Council on TUESDAY approved amendments to its regulations for short-term home rentals.

KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen has more.

AB: The council approved the regulations last year, but needed approval from the California Coastal Commission before implementing them. The number of licenses for whole-home rentals will be capped at 1% of the city's housing stock. Councilmember Jen Campbell proposed the system, breaking a years-long stalemate on the issue. But the deal upset many constituents, who wanted nothing short of a total ban. They argue short-term rentals for visitors don't belong in residential neighborhoods. The city hopes to start enforcing the new rules in the spring or summer of next year. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news.


Coming up.... Preventing COVID infections continues to be a challenge… especially inside buildings.

“We spend 91 percent of our time indoors. And the air that we breathe indoors is often far worse.”

We’ll have more on that next, just after the break.

The COVID-19 Pandemic may change the way large buildings are designed in California and elsewhere.

KPBS environment Reporter Erik Anderson says most large buildings were designed to save power, not clean up air that may be carrying viruses.

There is a huge metal grate, just outside the UCSD Computer Science and Engineering building. It is as long and wide as a greyhound bus - in fact a bus would probably fit in the concrete room under the grate.

“That’s the air from outside.”

Rajesh Gupta a computer science and engineering professor at the school.

“So pretty much, every large building will have an intake like this.”

Outside air is drawn into the basement and pulled through a wall of filters. Those filters are good enough to make sure the air pumped into the building is relatively clean.

“This is the supply side.”

“This will be the fan guiding air into the whole building”

Gupta’s colleague Charlies Johnson is in charge of the school’s heating and A-C systems. He says the fans are the heart of this building’s air delivery system. They’re powerful enough to push massive amounts of air through the four-story structure.

Charlie: “And they’re blowing 45,000 cubic feet a minute. So, it’s a hundred 80 thousand cubic feet a minute of air coming in here.”

And keeping this system running is crucial because as Gupta points out… the building’s windows don’t open.

“So they’re designed to recirculate air because that’s the only way, that’s the main way you save energy.”

But there’s a catch to saving energy. Recirculating that air can also push virus tainted aerosols around the inside of a building. And that could increase infection rates. It’s something researchers in New York City noticed in their tall buildings early in the pandemic. So Gupta and his UCSD colleagues began looking at how to change air circulation patterns in buildings and even rooms.

Xiaohan Fu

“I can actually control every single room in this building.”

With a simple command on a laptop, Xiaohan Fu can change the entire building’s airflow, or just the airflow in an individual classroom. Fans can be powered up to circulate more air when people are detected. And less air when rooms are empty.

“They can send a very simple request to our server.”

The building’s computer brain uses carbon dioxide sensors to detect when people are in a room, so building managers don’t have to constantly check them. The whole system is designed to minimize exposure to a virus like COVID.

“We spend 91 percent of our time indoors. And the air that we breathe indoors is often far worse.”

Kim Prather is an atmospheric chemist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She says the infected airborne particles can build up in an enclosed space like invisible and odorless second-hand smoke. But making complicated or costly changes to a building’s existing heating and cooling system might not be enough.

“It does do some. It filters some, but when you’ve got a virus that’s this infectious you don’t have to breathe very much of it. And so it’s not enough by itself.”

Prather says masking remains a crucial strategy to fight the spread of COVID. She says another strategy involves a do it yourself tool. It’s called a Corsi-Rosenthal box. That’s an ordinary box fan on top of four highly rated furnace filters — it can clean 90 percent of the air in a room in just 15 minutes. And it doesn’t cost hundreds of dollars like some commercial HEPA filters.

“They actually outperform the hepas which is something I appreciate during the pandemic. They’re faster. They pump much more air, so much more quickly.”

The homemade boxes also circulate a room’s air, eliminating pockets of infected aerosols. The devices have caught the eye of Rajesh Gupta. He puts his hand on a Corsi-Rosenthal box sitting in the common area of a UCSD computer lab.

Box. “It cleans up the air, much more inexpensively. Because all you have to do is find or buy the four filters and put a 40 dollar fan on it.”

The pop-up filters are more cost efficient than spending hundreds of thousands of dollars upgrading a building’s air filtration system. But they are a stop gap solution. Eventually Gupta says building design will have to adapt to better protect people from airborne viruses like COVID.

Erik Anderson KPBS News

The GI Film Festival kicked off yesterday and runs through Saturday.

KPBS Military Reporter Steve Walsh says it’s the first in-person event in two years for the festival dedicated to the veteran community.

This year the GI Film Festival features 26 films by veterans and about the US military. For filmmakers it’s a chance to reach a specific audience, says Jack Youngelson, Director of "HERE. IS. BETTER" which addresses PTSD

“The important thing for us is to do exactly what the festival is doing to reach veterans. To reach members of the military directly to kind of provide a safe space in which people can watch this film and begin a conversation, hopefully national conversation, because I think it's so critically important.”

Here.Is.Better will show Thursday. It follows a group of veterans as they try to put their lives back together after being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. After the screening, there will be a panel discussion with one of the vets in the film. The GI Film Festival is showing at the Museum of Photographic arts from now through Saturday. Steve Walsh KPBS News


Come From Away originated at La Jolla Playhouse in 2015. It tells the true story of a small Newfoundland town that welcomed travelers stranded after 9/11. Broadway San Diego presents Come From Away at the Civic Theatre this week.

KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando looks at the show’s origins.

For fifteen years La Jolla Playhouse artistic director Christopher Ashley has been seeking out new works to produce.

CHRISTOPHER ASHLEY There's real pride in being a place where new stories get made.

When Come From Away crossed his desk seven years ago, Ashley was immediately attracted to the true story of how the small town of Gander, Newfoundland took in 7000 stranded travelers in the week after 9/11.

CHRISTOPHER ASHLEY The very first time I read it, I thought, wow, I don't know that I've ever read a story about the importance of taking care of each other and kindness and generosity. And that seemed to me like such a great thing to put out there in the world.

CLIP Tonight we honor what was lost… but we also commemorate what was found.

It’s a story that feels right for welcoming audiences back to live theater.

CHRISTOPHER ASHLEY I just think people are back in the theater with so much enthusiasm and it's amazing to watch people bond together around, yeah, it's possible to really behave well and be amazing hosts and take the best kind of care of each other.

Broadway San Diego presents Come From Away through Sunday at the Civic Theatre.

Beth Accomando KPBS News.

That’s it for the podcast today. 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.

After more than a decade, San Diego County is getting a new Sheriff. We'll bring you profiles of three candidates. Meanwhile, SDG&E has begun the official process to increase rates for gas and electricity. Plus, the pandemic may be changing the way large buildings are designed in California.