Morning Report: A Border Agent Opens Up - Voice of San Diego

Morning Report

Morning Report: A Border Agent Opens Up

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer makes a few pledges on the affordable housing front. Congressman Duncan Hunter says he's definitely running for reelection. And an argument against giving firefighters more lifeguard responsibilities.
Border Patrol agent Chris Harris stands next to a stormwater runoff channel that goes under the U.S.-Mexico border fence. / Photo by David Maung

The U.S. Border Patrol has a reputation for being one of the most opaque agencies in the country.

But in a new profile, our Mario Koran gives us a poignant glimpse into the world of Chris Harris, a local union rep who lives between worlds.

“Harris encapsulates a host of contradictions,” Koran writes. “When his union endorsed Trump, Harris had misgivings about how it would politicize border security. He’s married to a woman whose parents came to the country illegally, meaning they broke the same laws he’s now responsible for enforcing.”

Harris is on a mission to stop the millions of gallons of sewage that have flown into the country, harming his colleagues and the undocumented immigrants who might wade through it.

Fixing the Tijuana sewer system would require a binational effort, and neither the U.S. nor the Mexican government has been quick to act.

The Mayor Makes a Few Pledges

In his annual speech this week, Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who’d been criticized for not doing enough for the homeless last year, suggested that the city intends to turn a corner.

“San Diego is on the right path, and we have plenty more to do,” he said. “So I will be demanding more of myself. More from my administration. More from our civic and community leaders. More from every person in this room.”

He also pledged to put thousands of more San Diegans in affordable housing by the time his term is done.

For some additional context on those topics and others, Lisa Halverstadt annotated a transcript of the mayor’s speech.

Fletcher’s Back

In this week’s VOSD podcast, Scott Lewis and Ry Rivard talk to Nathan Fletcher about his bid for county supervisor and where he stands on pensions, unions and more.

Of course, the conversation comes back to Fletcher’s conversion from Republican to Democrat.

“I’m always going to be fiscally responsible and want to have prudent reserves and those types of things,” he said. “But I don’t think there’s anything in the Democratic Party that’s out of line with that with that type of change.”

Musical Chairs

Rep. Darrell Issa’s statement Wednesday that he wasn’t seeking re-election was pretty specific. Too specific. Nowhere in his statement did he say he was retiring from Congress — only from the 49th Congressional District.

That’s opened the door to speculation this week about Issa having his eyes on the 50th District. Rep. Duncan Hunter is the subject of a criminal investigation related to campaign spending, and one GOP source tells me that Issa is considering what might happen if Hunter is indicted and resigns.

Hunter, on the other hand, pushed back against this narrative on Friday with a statement of his own, posted to the San Diego Rostra blog.

“Just so we’re clear,” he said, “I am 100% running for reelection and with continued support from those in my district and the full endorsement of the Republican Party of San Diego County. I have run every race with full effort because my constituents deserve no less and this time is no different.”

Four Democrats are competing for Issa’s seat, and at least three Republicans, including Board of Equalization chair Diane Harkey and Assemblyman Rocky Chavez.

Chávez Wants GOP to Re-consider Its Values

Chávez, according to multiple Republican sources, is in a good position to take Issa’s seat. He’s a moderate, a veteran and a Latino in a district that nearly voted Democrat in 2016.

But Chavez has also been at odds with California Republican Party leadership since at least last summer, when he crossed the aisle to vote in favor of extending a tax on polluters — the state’s key climate change initiative.

One day before announcing his bid for Congress, Chavez told reporters in Sacramento that the GOP needs to re-consider its values. He highlighted early childhood education as one issue that conservatives should claim.

In the Sacramento Report, Marisa Agha writes about Gov. Jerry Brown’s final budget and how the surplus dollars could be managed. California Senate Republican Leader Patricia Bates called for investing $2 billion to rebuild communities, $2 billion to reduce pension liabilities, and $2 billion for the state’s budget reserves.

This week’s report also notes that Democratic Sen. Ben Hueso’s proposal to steer federal funds into high-poverty communities got a hearing. Parts of southeastern San Diego have been designated as “promise zones” by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“We need to focus on these areas and reverse the cycle of poverty,” Hueso said.

Commentary: We Gotta Keep ‘Em Separated

Newly released emails show that San Diego Fire Chief Brian Fennessy is attempting to change the lifeguard contract so that his own personnel can play a larger role in the city.

But by further integrating the two groups of first responders, the fire chief would be putting public safety at risk and wasting taxpayer dollars, argues Chris Brewster, editor of American Lifeguard Magazine and a San Diego resident, in a new op-ed. Firefighters would need more training and equipment, so that they can join lifeguards on water and cliff rescues.

“That is the game being played here,” Brewster writes. “More responses generate statistics that justify bigger budgets…”

In Other News

California has given temporary retail permits to 13 marijuana shops in San Diego. Only Sacramento has more. (Sacramento Bee)

• Churchgoers say governments and organizations across the county are pressuring them to stop serving meals to the homeless, citing the hepatitis A outbreak. (KPBS)

• What does the DOJ’s opposition to marijuana mean for San Diego? Academics weigh in. (Union-Tribune)

• The Thomas fire, the state’s largest on record, is completely contained. (Los Angeles Times)

• San Diego replaced the San Ysidro library, which  was nearly a century old. (Times of San Diego)

• A $30 million gift from a billionaire will jumpstart the new Children’s Zoo. (Union-Tribune)

Clarification

This week’s Learning Curve newsletter noted that San Diego Unified trustee Richard Barrera has opposed term-limits. He said he’s not necessarily opposed to term-limits, but is opposed to district-only elections.

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