- Voice of San Diego - https://www.voiceofsandiego.org -

Morning Report: San Diego Unified Acknowledges Slow-Rolling Records

San Diego Unified Office SDUSD
The San Diego Unified School District headquarters / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Last week, a Voice of San Diego reporter received part of a records request back from San Diego Unified. The request was filed in … 2016. 

Instances like that are uncommon as a whole, but they’re not uncommon when it comes to California’s second largest school district. As part of a lawsuit filed by Voice of San Diego against the district over its handling of public records requests, district officials are beginning to testify about the district’s practices.

In the latest deposition, the district official who handles the bulk of the district’s records requests acknowledged several troubling practices that attorneys say violate the law [1].

A key component of the law requires government bodies to identify whether they have any “disclosable” records within 10 days of receiving an initial request. But Jeff Day, during sworn testimony in a deposition, admitted the district frequently does not actually identify whether it has records within the 10-day window.

Not identifying records within the 10-day window and not responding to requesters within the 10-day window are both violations of the Public Records Act, multiple attorneys told VOSD.

Day also was not able to answer why the district never produced emails VOSD requested showing district officials suspected a La Jolla High School teacher had committed criminal conduct against children [2], but later produced them in response to a state subpoena.

Problem in Chula Vista? A Drone Is on Its Way

The Chula Vista Police Department’s pioneering use of drones has caught our eye for many reasons, including that some of the officials who started the program are now working for drone companies [3], trying to persuade other police departments to employ the technology in similar ways. We also laid out the transparency and privacy concerns [4] inherent in the sweeping program.

In a new story, Slate lays out just how extensive the Chula Vista program is [5] and details how it’s being used to respond to everything from tragedies to water leaks and reports of someone sleeping on a sidewalk.

“In the wake of intense new scrutiny around police violence, police—Chula Vista foremost among them—are shifting to a new rationale for using drones: deescalation,” Slate reports. “They argue that sending a drone to the scene of an incident instead of an armed human being is a way for police to get a sense of what’s going on from a detached and (if I may) God’s-eye-view perspective, reducing risk to both police and the public.”

And despite Chula Vista’s bad track record when it comes to new technology and the data collection [6] it entails, the stakes here are high: “In essence, Chula Vista is running a yearslong technological and social experiment, empowered by the federal government, on how drones intersect with policing and with people.”

Border Restrictions Impact Some Businesses More Than Others

Businesses in San Ysidro that depend on cross-border traffic have been struggling since the beginning of the pandemic.

But as Gustavo Solis notes in the latest Border Report, not all businesses near the border are struggling [7], and the restrictions haven’t impacted all types of businesses equally.

Tourists from the United States can still travel into Mexico and patronize businesses and restaurants there. But Mexicans have a harder time coming into the U.S. to spend money here. Cargo trucks have also been allowed to continue to transport goods manufactured in Mexico to consumers in the U.S.

Meanwhile, the businesses in San Ysidro continue to see devastating impacts.

San Ysidro businesses have lost a collective $600 million in sales compared with the last non-pandemic year – “a loss that also impacts San Diego’s sales tax revenues,” said the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce’s CEO, Jason Wells. “And because San Ysidro’s economic woes are fueled by cross-border travel restrictions, the reopening of California’s economy likely won’t solve the issue.”

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Sara Libby, and edited by Scott Lewis.