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Morning Report: The City's Doing the Homelessness Money Shuffle, Again

Homeless people line up their belongings alongside Fault Line Park in East Village. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

City leaders all seem to agree that key to solving the homelessness crisis is building lots – and lots and lots – of new housing.

That’s why many of them are wary of pulling money meant to fund permanent housing and diverting it to fund temporary solutions. But the city is looking to do just that – for the second time in six months.

The city is expected to tap San Diego Housing Commission funds meant to support permanent housing to finance short-term solutions.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s team is pledging to quickly replenish the funds to support more permanent solutions but the latest fund-shuffling move underscores the lack of certainty surrounding new funding and the lack of a strategy to address an urgent problem.

So what are the city and county’s plans to address homelessness? The answer: They don’t have an overarching strategy.

The Regional Task Force on the Homeless, a countywide group coordinating the regional response, last year paid a Sacramento consultant to produce a plan. (Here’s a cheat-sheet version.) The goal was to get local governments and homeless-serving agencies rowing in the same direction.

Gordon Walker is CEO of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless. / Photo by Vito Di Stefano

But the plan for that regional plan has changed in the past year. Task Force CEO Gordon Walker says the group has since decided against having the outside consultant produce a more detailed regional strategy. The Task Force is, however, working on overarching suggestions laid out in the initial report that advocated a housing first approach. (Translation: Housing first means focusing on quickly housing the homeless rather than demanding they enter temporary programs first.)

Cate Cleared

City Councilman Chris Cate’s office says he won’t be charged for leaking a confidential legal memo to SoccerCity developers last June.

Cate’s chief of staff told the Union-Tribune that the state attorney general’s office, which investigated the case, called the councilman two weeks ago to give him the news.

In an interview with Andrew Keatts Monday evening, Cate said the AG’s office told him they were not moving forward on the matter.

“We were told the matter is closed, and that’s it,” he said.

The AG’s press office was similarly brief with us.

“The California Department of Justice will not be filing criminal charges against Councilmember Cate,” they wrote in an email.

Cate previously paid a $5,000 fine from the city’s Ethics Commission.

The timing works out for Cate, who is campaigning for re-election ahead of the June 5 primary.

City Attorney Mara Elliott, who had blasted Cate for releasing the document, declined to comment. A spokesperson for her told us she would “look into it.” Hours earlier, the city attorney’s office told the Union-Tribune the office had agreed to forward all questions to the AG.

Cate has said he thought he was “acting within the law” when he shared the document but acknowledged he wished he had handled it differently.

The Great DA Debate

Summer Stephan (seated) and Genevieve Jones-Wright took part in a public safety forum at Temple Emanu-El. / Photo by Scott Lewis

From Scott Lewis: When Temple Emanu-El in Del Serro asked me to moderate a public safety forum with the candidates for district attorney and sheriff, I didn’t realize it was going to be one of the most interesting debates I’d ever tried to manage.

Out of it, I emerged with a much clearer understanding of the two major arguments Summer Stephan, the appointed district attorney, has against her rival, Genevieve Jones-Wright, who’s a public defender. Check out my analysis.

You can listen to the whole event here.

Hunter Backtracks on the M-Word

In an interview with KPBS, Rep. Duncan Hunter was characteristically brash calling the Affordable Care Act “unhinged,” criticizing the Obama administration for disciplining a military member “for beating up a child rapist” and saying the Senate “does nothing, period.”

But he was less off-the-cuff on his alleged misuse of campaign funds. Hunter is under federal criminal investigation.

Q: Did you misuse campaign funds?

A: No.

Q: Were there mistakes made?

A: No. I did not misuse any campaign funds, but thank you for asking.

That’s a major reversal. Hunter has always denied knowingly misusing campaign funds, but he and people representing him have repeatedly defended the campaign spending in question by insisting it was just a mistake.

Here’s what he said when Politico asked him if he knowingly used the funds on personal expenses:

“Nah, I know the rules,” he said. “And if I did, it was an accident and I paid it back.”

Here’s how former Hunter staffer Joe Kasper characterized the use of campaign funds to bring the family’s pet rabbit on a flight:

Kasper criticized the as-yet-unreleased ethics office report on Hunter, saying “findings or implications are significantly misrepresented or even exaggerated.”

As an example, Kasper mentioned the office’s questioning of the campaign’s use of $600 for airline fees to fly a Hunter family pet rabbit in the passenger cabin. Kasper said the fees were apparently charged to the campaign credit card by mistake, instead of using airline miles racked up on the campaign dime.

Kasper called it a mistake in other instances as well:

“This was nothing more than an oversight. In fact, it’s such an obvious example of a mistake being made but (the office) wants to view it through a lens of possible intent,” Kasper said. “The same goes for many other expenditures. Many of Rep. Hunter’s repayments had to do with mistakes under specific circumstances, and in other cases there were bona fide campaign activities connected to expenditures that (the office) was not aware of and didn’t account for.”

And here’s another time Hunter said the whole thing was a mistake:

During a town hall on March 11 at the Mainstage in Ramona, Hunter was asked about his alleged personal use of campaign funds. In response, the congressman said his campaign had made a mistake and that the funds had been paid back. Hunter told the audience “I fixed it, and as far as I’m concerned, end of story.”

The Public Can Go See Art Behind Bars

On May 10, inmates at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in Otay Mesa will do something new.

They’ll get to talk to members of the public there to look at artwork they’ve created as part of art classes taught at the prison.

The classes have gone on for a while, and inmates have been able to show their work to the public. But they were never able to see the areas where their art was shown, or to mingle with people who came to enjoy it. This will be the program’s first art exhibit staged in the prison.

Also in this week’s Culture Report: Kinsee Morlan also broke down $100,000 in grants awarded to local artists through the San Diego Foundation, a new exhibition produced when the San Diego Museum of Art opened its vault to a local artist and the Old Globe is going in on new work in its newly announced 2018-2019 season.

In Other News

  • The Union-Tribune reports SeaWorld attendance and revenues surged the first quarter of this year, giving some rare good news to a company dogged by controversy in recent years. That’s good news for the city, too: SeaWorld’s lease payments are tied to park revenues, giving the city a stake in the company’s success.
  • The Sheriff’s Department said it will investigate an incident captured on video and posted to Facebook in which deputies punch a man in the head as he’s restrained face-down on the ground, according to the Union-Tribune.
  • Police are investigating back-to-back shootings in East Village late Monday night that left five injured, reports the Union-Tribune. A police captain told news outlets including CBS 8 that detectives believe the shootings, which occurred in the epicenter of San Diego’s homeless crisis, may have been gang-related. San Diego police Chief David Nisleit, who canceled a planned press conference Tuesday in light of the shootings, wrote on Twitter that police are “working around the clock” to pursue the assailants in both the East Village shootings and two other shootings that left three dead in southeastern San Diego on Sunday.
  • KPBS dove into the District 4 City Council race, where incumbent City Council President Myrtle Cole will face off against three challengers to represent the southeastern San Diego district.
  • County supervisors voted this week to explore merging the region’s five public safety dispatch centers, Times of San Diego reports.
  • CNN checked in on San Diego Tuesday, noting that SDPD and the Sheriff’s Department have spent $2.3 million to protect the president’s border wall prototypes.

The Morning Report was written and compiled by Lisa Halverstadt and Andrew Keatts, and edited by Sara Libby.

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