Morning Report: MTS Doled Out Violations Disproportionately - Voice of San Diego

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Morning Report: MTS Doled Out Violations Disproportionately

Transit officer Xavier Herrera checks for trolley tickets. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

For years, activists have suggested that the Metropolitan Transit System’s aggressive enforcement has had a disparate impact on people of color. There’s now data to back that up.

Lisa Halverstadt and Kate Nucci analyzed ticketing information and report that Black people make up less than 15 percent of MTS riders but received nearly a third of all quality of life citations last year for violations such as failing to pay a fare or loitering.

The agency is now undergoing a review of its policies and enforcement structure.

In 2017, the MTS board decided to hire more code compliance officers to crack down more on violations, including fare evasion, but new leadership at the agency is proposing a new course. In September, the agency will roll out a pilot fare diversion program with reduced fines and the option to perform community service instead.

For some, a missed $2.50 fare can now grow into several hundred dollars in fines, which can then get passed on to debt collectors.

Ticketing disparities are not unique to San Diego. Analyses in the Bay Area and Seattle have also revealed enforcement disproportionately impacting Black transit riders.

Survey Says: Community Planning Groups Are Not Representative

When San Diego officials want to know how a neighborhood feels about new development, they look to local community planning groups, whose members are elected.

The city conducted a survey to get a better sense of who’s offering the advice and found a stark demographic disparity. On the whole, Andrew Keatts reports, the groups giving advice are older, whiter and wealthier than the city itself. They overwhelmingly own single-family homes.

Defenders of the community planning groups see themselves as models of democracy on the front-line of self-government. Though the new study is unscientific, it’s likely to give ammunition to transit and housing advocates who’ve argued that the groups are not representative and in need of reform. 

The groups have been advising City Hall for decades and in recent years they’ve come under scrutiny by a variety of sources, including the city auditor. The city attorney isn’t totally sure the groups are legal in their current form. 

Maya Rosas, an urban planner, has described her experience with one community planning group as toxic. She advocated Friday for redistributing the power such groups have accumulated. 

County Writes Up Navy for Ship Fire

San Diego County air pollution regulators have issued three violations against the Navy for the fire onboard the USS Bonhomme Richard. 

MacKenzie Elmer reports that a team of officials followed social media posts to locate where smoke from the burning ship traveled and then captured air in a vacuum, turning it over to laboratory technicians. They found above-average levels of chemical compounds that come from burning petroleum-based products like oil, fuel or plastics. 

At least one of those compounds is considered a cancer-causing chemical. Both county and state health officials, however, said the chemicals weren’t around long enough or in massive enough quantities to greatly harm human health. 

Politics Roundup

  • The latest podcast is all about cops and cameras. They walk through the 2015 shooting of Fridoon Nehad and how it informs a November ballot measure that would give a police oversight committee more power.
  • Claire Trageser at KPBS also considered what it would mean if trained professionals responded to calls involving mentally ill individuals rather than officers. She looked at Eugene, Ore., where a nonprofit responded to about 20 percent of the 911 calls. The program saves the city an estimated $15 million a year by eliminating hospital visits and jail time.
  • A San Diego project that would create a third of the city’s water from recycled sewage could be back on track. A judge ruled Friday against a group of general contractors who argued, among other things, that the state funds illegally favored union over non-union employers. 
  • Cal State University passed a new requirement mandating a three-unit ethnic studies class, but Assemblywoman Shirley Weber said it wouldn’t actually require students to take an ethnic studies course. She’s carrying her own bill in the Legislature. 

Following Allegations, Christian Youth Theater Shuts Down

The Union-Tribune reports that the Christian Youth Theater in El Cajon has shut down indefinitely amid allegations of sexual abuse by former employees. Former students have also come forward with accusations of homophobia, racism and bullying. 

The theater’s president, whose parents founded the theater, held a press conference Friday to say she and her staff were “heartbroken and devastated” by the stories they’d heard. Protesters gathered as well. 

One of the theater’s instructors, Ashly McGlone reported in 2018, previously worked at Sweetwater Union High School District. An internal investigation had concluded he harassed and groped at least three female students, but officials agreed to keep quiet on his way out the door. 

In Other News

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

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