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Morning Report: National City Officials Aren’t Interested in Dialogue With Protesters

Protesters demanding information about the death of Earl McNeil confront Sheriff’s deputies. / Photo by Vito Di Stefano

Thirty years ago, National City’s police chief intentionally picked up officers who had been dismissed by other agencies for being too aggressive, according to now-Mayor Ron Morrison.

“We had a reputation for being a cowboy police department, but that has not been true for 25 years,” Morrison told Voice’s Jesse Marx. “The police department today is nowhere near that nature.”

That doesn’t mean, though, that the city is showing much contrition following the recent death of Earl McNeil [1], a mentally ill black man who was hospitalized after an encounter with the city’s police.

Activists and community members have asked for the city to release the names of the officers involved in the incident as well as body-worn camera footage from the morning of May 26, when McNeil came to the station. National City police said McNeil was high and combative and so they put him in a restraining device.

At the county jail, he stopped breathing and later fell into a coma. His family pulled him off life support on June 11.

Typically, city officials at least pay lip service to those demanding accountability and dialogue with the community following controversial deaths involving the police. But as Marx details, National City’s mayor and police chief have spoken about activists demanding information about the circumstances surrounding McNeil’s death with open disdain.

Police Chief Manuel Rodriguez smirked while a spokeswoman for the McNeil family shouted at officials and was arrested. Rodriguez said he can’t help that he smiles a lot.

Both he and the mayor believe the activists are making insincere demands because they don’t live in National City.

“I’m not answerable to them,” Morrison said. “Just because they bark orders, we won’t jump.”

But as the activists have pointed out, McNeil didn’t live in National City, either. Thousands of commuters pass through National City – on Interstate 5, on Interstate 805, on Harbor Drive, on Euclid Avenue – and are subject to the city’s policing even if they don’t live there.

Ballot Watch: Vacation Rental Fight Could Keep Going Through 2020

A coalition of vacation rental operators want voters to overturn the city’s restrictive vacation rental rules in 2020.

Vacation rental platforms Airbnb and HomeAway and advocacy group Share San Diego on Tuesday announced [3] they began collecting signatures over the weekend in hopes of getting a referendum on the ballot.

Airbnb confirmed that its PAC has already sunk $100,000 into the signature-gathering effort, which will continue through August.

City Councilman Scott Sherman, who opposed the new regulations, was apparently among the first to sign. Vacation rental operators provided his signed petition [4] Tuesday.

The city’s vacation rental rules [5], which only allow for a primary residence to be rented out for up to six months a year, are set to go into effect next July. It’s unclear if the referendum could change that timeline.

It could get held up in other ways, too.

The regulations still need to clear the state Coastal Commission, which has panned restrictive rules [6] in other cities.

The vacation rental coalition says it’s also mulling its legal options [7].

These Aren’t Your Mom’s Ceramics

No longer a material reserved for the dinner table, ceramics are making a comeback in the San Diego art scene, and some radical stuff is taking shape.

In this week’s Culture Report, Kinsee Morlan talks to Sasha Koozel Reibstein about how she pushes the possibilities of ceramic and porcelain sculpture [11] with the hope of giving our surroundings a more magical look. “I think the world’s really depressing right now,” she said

In Other News

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