Morning Report: Ship Fire's Health Impacts Are Hazy

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Morning Report: Ship Fire's Health Impacts Are Hazy

Port of San Diego Harbor Police Department boats combat a fire on board USS Bonhomme Richard at Naval Base San Diego. / Photo by U.S. Navy Lt. John J. Mike

Community members voiced their concerns over air quality Tuesday as the Navy continued to combat a fire aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard for a third day.

But getting a complete picture of the fire’s environmental risks for nearby neighborhoods could take time, reports MacKenzie Elmer. That’s because of science (well, duh) and because of other inconvenient happenstances stalling the testing process.

Elmer reports the fire on the Navy ship erupted as the county was in the middle of installing new air pollution sensors. On top of that, a county official said employees who analyze air samples are on vacation and some samples can’t be fully tested because a new shipment of the liquid nitrogen used to cool one of the instruments didn’t arrive on schedule.

The Environmental Health Coalition, a local environmental justice organization, is now pushing back. In a statement it said that the county was “underprepared” and criticized officials for waiting hours to warn citizens living near the fire zone.

Former Chabad of Poway Rabbi Pleads Guilty in Fraud Case

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein of Chabad of Poway pleaded guilty to federal charges of tax fraud and wire fraud Tuesday, reports the Union-Tribune.

The complaint details a multimillion-dollar charitable tax scheme where the synagogue would take in large amounts of money from donors, but secretly return a majority of it. According to the Union-Tribune, Goldstein would typically return 90 percent of the funds, while keeping just 10 percent. This allowed donors to claim large charitable contributions on their taxes.

Goldstein gained national publicity and an outpouring of national support last year after a gunman tore through Chabad of Poway, killing one woman and injuring several others, including himself.

Housing Bond Headed for the November Ballot

A $900 million affordable housing bond will be on the November ballot despite some predictions that the property tax measure might collapse amid a pandemic that already swallowed up a transit tax measure.

The City Council voted 6-3 Tuesday to place the measure on the ballot after three years of effort by housing advocates.

Councilwoman Barbara Bry, a Democratic mayoral candidate whose support for the measure has been inconsistent, said her vote to place the bond on the ballot did not constitute an endorsement but that she wanted to give voters a chance to consider it.

City Council Democrats Monica Montgomery and Georgette Gómez also expressed reservations about a last-minute addition to the ballot language that would give market-rate developers a yet-to-be detailed credit for construction of affordable housing or payment of the city inclusionary or linkage fees meant to help fund construction of affordable units. Both ultimately voted to support the measure anyway with the understanding that those details would be hashed out if the measure is approved by two-thirds of voters in November.

If voters ultimately sign off this fall, the measure is expected to gradually increase property taxes to just under $21 per $100,000 of assessed valuation over a seven-year period to help fund 7,500 homes for low-income and homeless San Diegans.

  • A City Council vote on a proposed ballot measure that would end the city’s partial ban on union-friendly project labor agreements was delayed Tuesday after an attorney for the Building Trades Council, the group of construction unions championing the proposal, wrote a letter to the City Council raising concerns with the language of the measure. KPBS’s Andrew Bowen got a hold of that letter.

Chula Vista Elementary Schools Will Not Open; More School Updates

Chula Vista Elementary School District announced late Tuesday that it would not be opening physical classrooms at the beginning of the school year.

“We will continue to work towards transitioning to in-person instruction but will only do so when guidance from local health officials supports a safe transition back to learning on site in classrooms,” wrote Francisco Escobedo, the superintendent, in a message to parents.

Chula Vista is the first district in the region to follow San Diego Unified’s decision Monday to not open campuses for the fall and pursue online, remote learning instead.

Districts have issued many of these kinds of messages to worried parents across the region this week.

San Dieguito Union High School District: Leaders aren’t sure what to do. “We are developing learning models for next year that will align with all of the possible pandemic scenarios we could find our district in ranging from on-campus, in-class instruction, to the maximum extent possible as called for by the State of California in the current year’s budget, to full-time distance learning,” wrote Superintendent Robert Haley.

Poway Unified School District: Hanging in there; still planning to open campuses and offer an online experience. “We cannot predict what will happen; we can only prepare for as many scenarios in our planning as possible,” wrote Superintendent Marian Kim Phelps.

Escondido Union School District: Won’t open campuses full time for sure. The district is considering either four half days per week or two full days per week. “As a reminder, as of this writing, under the current public health regulations and guidelines, the district will not be able to safely accommodate all of our students on campus every day at the start of the 2020-2021 school year,” wrote Superintendent Luis A. Rankins-Ibarra.

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Megan Wood and Lisa Halverstadt, and edited by Sara Libby.

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