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Morning Report: City Budget Goes From Bad to Worse

Mayor Kevin Faulconer announces the city’s plan to turn Golden Hall into a temporary homeless shelter. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer told the City Council Tuesday that the budget he proposed for next year was already $50 million off and Council members would need to find that much more in cuts in addition to what he already laid out. That means a total budget deficit hovering around $300 million. 

Nobody’s coming: The stark dropoff in economic activity related to tourism and conventions is mostly to blame for the change in estimates. The mayor’s previous budget was done before Comic-Con canceled and when it was assumed that some portion of conventions would still come to San Diego in the second half of 2020 – a lot of that is now in doubt at best. 

The city gets money not only from hotel-room taxes but from the sales taxes visitors pay. 

Hope: City staff also acknowledged that the city is eligible for more than $248 million in assistance from the CARES Act emergency federal legislation. It’s unclear how much would come or when. 

But: The mayor’s newest estimate may even still be too optimistic. Next month, the city will have to revise its budget for the current year – reconciling last year’s plan with the money that is actually coming in – and that could be quite the nightmare. 

Sobering Daily Update

The county reported one of the biggest one-day jumps [1] in deaths and cases with 15 new deaths and 109 new cases. That puts San Diego County at 2,434 positive cases and 87 deaths.

From KPBS: “The jumps were partially due to reporting delays and officials noted San Diego was seeing promising trends when it came to other metrics. But County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said she would not consider easing any restrictions until later this month.”

There has been a sharp increase in cases in the South Bay. 

The update from the county came right the county Board of Supervisors rejected a proposal [2] by two county supervisors – Jim Desmond and Kristin Gaspar – to start lobbying the governor to reopen businesses in San Diego by May 1.

The Board of Supervisors did approve a $5 million recovery loan program for small businesses [3] in the county’s unincorporated areas, NBC 7 reports.

More COVID-19 Economic News

Donovan Staffer Tests Positive for Coronavirus

A staffer at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility has tested positive for the coronavirus [7] – the first case in the facility.

The state prison is a medical hub for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and several stakeholders, including inmates and staff, have raised the alarm that if the virus took hold in the facility, it could be particularly deadly because [8] it houses many medically vulnerable inmates.

No additional information has been provided about the staffer, how they contracted the virus or who they came in contact with in the facility. The Department of Corrections told VOSD’s Maya Srikrishnan that an investigation is underway.

As of Tuesday, 19 inmates in Donovan had been tested for coronavirus. The facility was at 127 percent capacity as of April 15, with 3,811 inmates.

Stop-Gap Measure Hasn’t Appeared to Slow Coronado Bridge Suicides

The Coronado Bridge has long had the grim designation as one of the deadliest bridges in the country: Since 2012, the number of bridge suicides has ranged from 12 to 19 a year.

Just over a year ago, officials installed “bird spikes” on the rails of the bridge as a temporary stop-gap measure to prevent suicides. But statistics suggest the spikes haven’t slowed the pace of the bridge’s death toll [9], VOSD contributor Randy Dotinga reports.

“Fifteen people jumped from the bridge to their deaths in 2019, according to the county medical examiner’s office, almost all after the spikes were installed,” Dotinga reports.

Caltrans, which manages the bridge, has plans to build a more permanent suicide barrier, but it’s at least five to 10 years away.

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Scott Lewis, Maya Srikrishnan and Lisa Halverstadt, and edited by Sara Libby.