Morning Report: A Wild, High-Profile Day for San Diego Pols - Voice of San Diego

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Morning Report: A Wild, High-Profile Day for San Diego Pols

Former Rep. Duncan Hunter and Assemblywoman Shirley Weber
Former Rep. Duncan Hunter and Assemblywoman Shirley Weber / Photos by KPBS and Vito Di Stefano

Tuesday was one of the biggest days for San Diego politicians in, well, maybe ever.

On Tuesday morning, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he was elevating California’s secretary of state, Alex Padilla, to the U.S. Senate to fill the vacancy left by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

That meant Newsom also got to tap a replacement for Padilla, and he found one not in the San Diego assemblywoman who is already running for the job but in the one who represents the district next door. That would be Assemblywoman Shirley Weber.

“Dr. Weber is a tireless advocate and change agent with unimpeachable integrity,” Newsom said in a statement.

It’s not yet clear whether Weber will run to keep the job in 2022. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who has written numerous measures to expand voting rights, has been running for the job for more than a year.

“I feel very strongly about voting rights, which is why I was running for secretary of state. While I would’ve loved the opportunity to serve in that role, I fully appreciate the need to amplify Black women in our state. Shirley Weber is an icon and will serve California well as secretary of state,” Gonzalez wrote in a statement. Another Democratic member of the Legislature, Evan Low, has also been running for the job.

Weber must be confirmed by the Legislature, but respect for her there runs deep.

Moments after the Weber news drop came another bombshell: President Donald Trump has pardoned former Rep. Duncan Hunter, who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds and has been serving prison time. Hunter was one of the first members of Congress to endorse Trump.

The Union-Tribune’s Morgan Cook broke a series of stories outlining Hunter’s questionable spending, a list that included video game purchases, Irish dance lessons and rabbit air travel.

Now watch this feat of strength as we stitch these two storylines together …

Weber’s departure from the 79th Assembly District will set off another round of political dominoes to replace her. One possibility? Her daughter, La Mesa Councilwoman Akilah Weber, could jump into the race. That would give her the chance to cash in on the familiarity of “Dr. Weber” references, since both women hold advanced degrees. It would be, dare we say, a lot like how Hunter was able to cash in on the name ID generated by his father, a longtime congressman who was also named Duncan Hunter.

Why Complaints Against Sheriff’s Deputies Are Soaring

A statewide advisory group managed by the California Department of Justice has issued a new draft report on racial and identity bias showing wide disparities among local law enforcement agencies.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department was spotlighted for having one of the largest year-over-year spikes in complaints against officers. The number of complaints filed against its officers appeared to be exploding. But amended numbers since filed by the Sheriff’s Department suggest a much more modest increase.

What gives? Jesse Marx reports that there’s a lack of agreement across the state over what constitutes a “complaint” in the first place, and how it should be collected and logged. Local police agencies have the discretion to define the term and establish their own systems for handling complaints.

For years, the state has been encouraging more agencies to adopt a more uniform standard.

Previously, the Sheriff’s Department was only counting complaints that had become formal investigations. Now it reports all complaints, regardless of who investigated or why. Of the 119 complaints alleging racial and identity profiling in 2018 and 2019, the Sheriff’s Department determined that all but one were unfounded.

The state is also preparing to roll out another year worth of stop data. One of the key stats included in the report: Black Californians were stopped 141 percent more frequently than their share of the population.

COVID Data Shows Just How Bad Things Are in Local Jails

Data obtained by KPBS sheds new light on exactly which jails in San Diego have had the most COVID-19  outbreaks

Roughly 60 percent of some 1,800 cases occurred at three facilities – the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility, the Otay Mesa Detention Facility and the Metropolitan Correctional Center.

Voice of San Diego’s Maya Srikrishnan has been reporting on COVID outbreaks in local detention centers in recent months. She wrote a devastating profile of a man who died behind bars in September from coronavirus, revealed allegations of lax COVID precautions at the Metropolitan Correctional Center and explained some of the common causes behind jail outbreaks.

Some North County Districts Push for Reopening Amid Many Challenges

Several North County school districts are pushing to open their doors – or simply stay open – in the new year. But several factors are holding them back, reports Kayla Jimenez. 

Several of the districts are facing acute staffing shortages, because many teachers have had to quarantine or are calling out of work for other health reasons. In some districts, unions are also pushing back hard against reopening plans, saying they are either unsafe or do not comply with state rules. 

Local scientists have also pointed out that community spread of COVID-19 is currently at unsafe levels. 

Escondido Union, San Dieguito Union and Vista Unified are all hoping to do some level of in-person learning in January, but it’s unclear whether any of the districts will be able to pull it off. 

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Will Huntsberry and Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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