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Morning Report: San Diego Confronts Its Recuperative Care Shortage

Interfaith Community Services’ Hawthorne Veteran and Family Resource Center in Escondido offers a recuperative care program for homeless San Diegans. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Every year, thousands of homeless patients cycle through San Diego hospitals and emergency rooms, and end up back on the streets.

There have even been stories of homeless patients being pushed back out into the world still wearing hospital gowns.

Lisa Halverstadt reports that regional leaders are publicly calling for more “recuperative beds” to aid homeless San Diegans recovering from surgeries, strokes and other major health issues.

There are only a few dozen of those beds left in the county. And one of the largest operators, the San Diego Rescue Mission, halted its program just as a new state law requiring hospitals to take certain steps before discharging homeless patients took effect.

The law doesn’t require that homeless Californians be given temporary housing or provide new resources to deliver it. But in San Diego, the increased scrutiny surrounding hospital discharges has triggered regional conversations about the lack of options for homeless patients.

Water World Shakeups, Part One

The longtime head of the San Diego County Water Authority announced Wednesday she is retiring after 23 years.

We profiled Maureen Stapleton, the agency’s general manager, last year. She helped the region secure its own supplies of water, making her a respected civic leader.

But amid a water war she helped launch and the bitter, personal disputes it’s set off, it became an open question whether Stapleton would be able to end her career on a good note. Last year, one of the Water Authority’s board members said an intoxicated Stapleton came up to him at an industry event and accused him of sleeping with an employee at a rival water agency. There’s no evidence such an affair happened.

The Water Authority paid for an investigation of Stapleton’s behavior but never made it public. In August, during Stapleton’s annual performance review, the agency’s board of directors voted not to give Stapleton a raise or bonus. She is paid over $300,000 a year.

In a statement announcing her retirement, the Water Authority said Stapleton “led a successful, multi-decade strategy to diversify and improve the reliability of San Diego County’s water supply” and that “the Stapleton era also saw the greatest investment in large-scale regional water infrastructure in San Diego County history.”

A spokesman for the agency said discussions about the timing of her departure and whether she would receive a severance package will be discussed at next week’s board meeting.

The Water Authority buys water from Northern California, the Colorado River and a desalination plant in Carlsbad and resells it to local water agencies, like the city water department.

Water World Shakeups, Part Two

The city’s water department is going through a second major shakeup in less than a year. At least five senior officials are out, including one who once tried to waive off an audit of the city’s troubled “smart” meter program.

Officials in charge of the department have downplayed problems and resisted oversight, according to an ongoing investigation we’re doing with NBC 7 Responds. That became a huge headache for Mayor Kevin Faulconer when hundreds of customers began receiving unjustifiably high water bills.

The urge to resist oversight seems to have come from the top of the department. Though the problems seem to have festered for years under the leadership of several different water department directors, one of them really stuck his foot in his mouth.

In addition to the five officials out amid the current shakeup, the former director of the department and one of his deputy directors retired last year.

Newsom Calls Housing-Averse Cities to the Principal’s Office

Encinitas was called to the principal’s office this week for not having a plan in place that identifies sites for new housing construction. By principal, we mean Gov. Gavin Newsom, who wanted to know why various municipalities were lagging behind.

Despite the adversarial tone of the invitation — California is suing Huntington Beach for a similar reason — Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear said the meeting was positive.

“I wanted him to know it’s not through obstructionism or elected defiance,” she told Jesse Marx in the North County Report. “The elected leadership in Encinitas is trying to comply with state housing laws.”

The source of the conflict is a local law that gives residents veto power over major land use changes. A judge suspended that law in December and now a group of citizens are trying to save it in the courts.

Caught between these competing forces, Blakespear said, “I’m trying to do the best I can in a situation that’s untenable.”

Supes Races Are Getting Off the Ground

Poway Mayor Steve Vaus is running for Dianne Jacob’s seat on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, the Union-Tribune reports. She’s termed out in 2020 and can’t run again for District 2, which mostly includes East County.

In North County, Escondido City Councilwoman Olga Diaz also announced her bid for Kristin Gaspar’s seat in District 3. Gaspar has been mum on whether she’s running for reelection or whether she’s going to challenge Rep. Mike Levin in the 49th Congressional District. (Disclosure: Diaz is a member of the VOSD board of directors.)

Sheriff’s Department Makes a Small Number of Misconduct Records Public

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department has begun rolling out disciplinary records thanks to SB 1421, a new state law. As KPBS noted, the first two reports deal with deputies accused of groping women — one as young as 14.

Sheriff Bill Gore is releasing these records after intense pressure from media outlets over the high fees his legal advisers were demanding for access. His actions are in contrast to other law enforcement agencies throughout the region, where police unions are suing to stop the records from being released.

But as Sara Libby explained, the real test of transparency will be how Gore handles records for officers who remain on duty. It’s also worth noting that the deputy who groped the teenage girl was included on a list of personnel known to lie and had other previous disciplinary incidents, but the Sheriff’s Department didn’t release any records detailing those.

In Other News

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

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