Morning Report: Did Mexico Solve the Border Sewage Problem?

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Morning Report: Did Mexico Solve the Border Sewage Problem?

Rigoberto Laborín Valdez, the undersecretary of sanitation and the protection of water in Baja California, showcases improvements to the PB-CILA pump station. It's part of Tijuana's wastewater system that constantly broke down.
Rigoberto Laborín Valdez, the undersecretary of sanitation and the protection of water in Baja California, showcases improvements to the PB-CILA pump station. It’s part of Tijuana’s wastewater system that constantly broke down. / Photo by MacKenzie Elmer

Mexican officials have claimed over the past few months that they have stopped spills in the Tijuana River and don’t need help from the feds on the other side of the border to fix the longstanding problem.

Indeed, VOSD’s MacKenzie Elmer and contributor Vicente Calderón report, Mexico has added infrastructure, and has additional plans too. New pipes also seemed to stop the sewage from flowing for a while – at least when the ultimate essential worker was available to clean trash away from the screen over the drain that leads to the small PB-CILA pump station in Tijuana.

Yet there’s still sewage flowing, and beaches are still closing and now there’s another problem: a different broken piece of the Tijuana River diversion system.

Elmer and Calderón explain the state of the sanitation issues at the border ahead of a 10 a.m. Friday press conference where the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which got $300 million from the new NAFTA deal to try to attack the problem, plans to do with that money. 

Learning Curve: Tracking How Much We Help Kids

Among Gov. Gavin Newsom’s big policy goals is one ready-made for the wonks: creating a system to track how well California’s kids do, with information from preschool, the K-12 system, state colleges and Medi-Cal. Alas, it appears building out that system will itself take years.

In the meantime, a small team at the San Diego County Office of Education is trying to put together its own version of the idea, by linking preschool data with already available K-12 data. It would let the team compare how kids who attended quality-rate preschools did on their reading and math tests through their senior year of high school, compared to those who didn’t.

But it’s not happening, Will Huntsberry writes in his Learning Curve newsletter, because the California Department of Education rejected the county’s request for anonymized information on student test scores.

“Meditate on that for a moment,” Huntsberry writes. “Newsom wants to link up the state’s data systems so we can better track outcomes. One government agency in San Diego found a way to do it. But when it asked for the simple information it needed, it was blocked by a state government agency.”

City Wants to Bolster Youth Shelter Options

The city is directing state grant funds to bolster shelter and other offerings for homeless youth.

Mayor Todd Gloria on Thursday announced that the city will use more than $543,000 in state Homeless Emergency Aid Program funds to add 19 shelter beds at the Urban Street Angels Center downtown, four new beds and additional nights of operation for the San Diego Youth Services’ Youth Emergency Shelter, a San Diego LGBT Community Center homeless outreach worker and to support hotel vouchers where needed.

The Thursday announcement helps support a major goal of the homelessness plan the City Council adopted in 2019: to end youth homelessness within three years.

Lisa Halverstadt checked in on the city’s efforts to execute the homelessness plan and got Gloria’s take on next steps late last year.

  • The Housing Commission also recently voted to approve a contract with nonprofit Father Joe’s Villages to operate a 28-bed womens’ shelter at its East Village campus. 

In Other News

  • SeaWorld’s pandemic-related struggles continue and the Union-Tribune reports that the San Diego park paid the city just $1.6 million in rent for the period between February and November 2020, an 81 percent drop from 2019. (Reminder that SeaWorld’s rent payments give taxpayers a stake in the park’s success, as they are based on park revenues.)
  • San Diego Unified has added 46 community leaders and groups to an advisory committee that will help select the district’s next superintendent, the Union-Tribune reports.
  • CBS 8 reports that a La Mesa school board member’s comments about white supremacy and racism are drawing fire and led to a disapproving statement from others on the board.
  • Taller California, a new multilingual press, is hosting a discussion Friday at 5:30 p.m. with VOSD’s Jesse Marx and UCSD professor Lilly Irani. They’ll talk about public records and redactions as an instrument of state secrecy. 
  • Hundreds of thousands of San Diegans will become eligible to receive vaccines in the next few weeks, and health care professionals told KPBS they’re worried there won’t be enough vaccines for all of them.
  • A Del Mar-based group has filed a lawsuit against the California Coastal Commission looking to stop Southern California Edison from dismantling the San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station, which has not produced electricity since 2012. The group argues SoCal Edison’s dismantling plan is a threat to the coast and environment. A trial could begin as early as June. (Union-Tribune)

The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt and Andrew Keatts, and edited by Sara Libby.

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