Morning Report: Cole's Office Played a Role in Unauthorized Homeless Sweep - Voice of San Diego

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Morning Report: Cole's Office Played a Role in Unauthorized Homeless Sweep

Southeastern San Diego residents have long complained about a vacant plot at 54th Street and Chollas Parkway in southeastern San Diego that’s often filled with trash, debris and homeless camps. / Photo by Lisa Halverstadt

In September, as City Council President Myrtle Cole fought to hold onto the District 4 seat, her top staffer’s request to clean up a plot in southeastern San Diego led to a violation of a long-standing settlement guiding how sweeps of homeless camps must be conducted.

City Hall veteran Jimmie Slack, chief of staff to Cole and previous District 4 Councilman Tony Young, said he asked a nonprofit, which Cole’s office helps fund, to clear trash from a vacant plot behind a shopping center.

Lisa Halverstadt reports that city workers later came across the group, Connecting Hope CDC, conducting a homeless camp sweep outside the court-mandated protocol for conducting those efforts.

Concerned, those city workers notified their supervisors, triggering a review and a later an email to Slack to let him know the clean-up had fallen outside protocols required under the settlement.
And when Halverstadt requested city emails that documented the incident, Slack denied any existed. Other city departments responded to a separate Public Records Act request – weeks after the Nov. 6 election. Cole ended up losing to challenger Monica Montgomery.

SDPD Concocted a Fake Active Shooter Drill to Arrest Students

With the permission of the school principal, San Diego police officers in October did something unorthodox: They arrested four students on campus under the guise of an active-shooter drill.

Will Huntsberry reports that Sweetwater Union High School District officials wanted to accommodate police by making the arrests at Montgomery High School in Otay Mesa as safe and controlled as possible. Police believe the students committed serious crimes in other parts of the county.

But two days passed between when police posed the idea and carried it out, meaning the same students who were deemed dangerous remained in school and on the streets.

An attorney with the National Center for Youth Law complained that arresting students away from their homes prevented them from getting any immediate parental guidance. He also raised the question of whether using a drill to mislead the rest of the student body would undermine the administration’s trust long-term.

A spokesman for the school district said a drill had been scheduled for mid-November, but it got bumped up when the San Diego Police Department made its request.

Border Update

In his inauguration speech Saturday, Mexico’s incoming President Andrés Manuel López Obrador promised to address the roots of the cause behind the migration of Central American refugees, many of whom have landed in Tijuana in recent days seeking asylum in the United States. The Union-Tribune reports that one of his acts in office was a signed agreement with presidents from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to create a fund to generate jobs in those regions.

Some Tijuaneses have greeted the migrants with hostility, protesting their presence. Also this weekend, the U-T reports, Tijuana officials cut off food, water and bathroom services at the Benito Juárez sports complex Friday, prompting a mass exodus to another shelter 11 miles away from the U.S.-Mexico border.

Confused about the asylum process and not sure who to trusty, some migrants seem to have given up hope that they’ll find a safer place to live in the United States, according the U-T. As news of growing tensions between migrants and officials builds and fears of potential border crossing shutdowns persist, tourism in Baja California is taking a big hit.

Maienschein Barely Holding on

Judging by the amount of money he left in his campaign committee account, Republican Assemblyman Brian Maienschein was feeling confident on Election Day. And there was good reason for it. He’d previously won the northern San Diego district, which includes Poway, by margins of 15 to 30 percent.

The latest count, released Friday night, shows him leading by 757 votes, or a mere 0.38 percent.

Democratic organizers saw an opportunity in the 77th Assembly District because of President Donald Trump, and they invested heavily in Sunday Gover. But San Diego’s state Democratic delegation stayed out of the race because Maienschein has come through for them in a pinch.

Sometimes, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez explained in a special podcast last week, he’s more reliable than the Democrats from swing districts.

The next round of election results will be released Monday night.

Leader on Homelessness Steps Aside

Gordon Walker has resigned as CEO of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless while on leave to do missionary work in Rome. Some people who work on homelessness issues credited Walker for helping to get the organization off the ground. Others criticized him for failing to articulate a plan that would tackle homelessness across the region.

“I’m not going to miss him,” homeless advocate Michael McConnell told the Union-Tribune, “because I can’t figure out what he did.”

The U-T also reports that California is trying to encourage more groups to provide food for the needy. Beginning next year, small charities that serve pre-packaged food will be allowed to register with the county, without being attached to a commercial kitchen.

Politics Roundup

  • Gonzalez also threw cold water on progressive hopes that a single-payer health care system is in sight. California would need federal approval to redirect Medicare and Medicaid dollars, she reminded listeners at a health policy conference downtown. Other experts at the conference didn’t even think a single-payer bill could make it through the Democrat-dominated state Assembly. The last one failed because it had no clear funding source.
  • Over on the podcast, VOSD’s Maya Srikrishnan and Scott Lewis discussed the tensions and factors that led to the border shutdown last week. Halverstadt was also there to answer Balboa Park-related questions — dealing with museum rent and zoo admission submitted by readers.
  • U-T columnist Michael Smolens performs an autopsy on California conservatism and quotes the former chairman of the San Diego GOP, who said, “There is a serious lack of courage out there to confront the challenge of a party brand that has lost relevance in urban, coastal and Latino communities.”

In Other News

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

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