Morning Report: Issa Goes Off

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Morning Report: Issa Goes Off

Carl DeMaio (left) and Darrell Issa (right) / Photos by Megan Wood

Former U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa appears to have decided this is an important week in his race to replace former Rep. Duncan Hunter. On Tuesday, Issa announced that San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer endorsed him. The campaign sent out a video of Faulconer praising Issa.

On Wednesday, he launched a vicious advertisement against former City Councilman Carl DeMaio that highlighted DeMaio’s sexual orientation and included a racist depiction of unauthorized immigrants as murderous gang members.

But then Republicans — the chairman of the Republican Party, Tony Krvaric, Councilman Chris Cate — stepped out to condemn the ad.

Thursday, Faulconer joined them. And, turns out, the video Issa released of Faulconer’s praise was shot in 2016. The Issa campaign had recycled it. By Wednesday night, Issa had taken it off YouTube. Faulconer re-affirmed his support for Issa though.

Scott Lewis wrote about the dramatic few days and what they mean.

Related: The U-T editorial board weighed in. “It’s a searing comment on Issa’s character that the former Vista congressman would try to take advantage of hateful views of the LGBTQ+ community.”

Also on the 50th …

The Union-Tribune released Thursday a five-part documentary series on former Rep. Duncan Hunter, the district he and his father represented for three decades, their political dynasty, the scandal that brought him down and the race to replace him.

“The 50th: A Scandal. A Dynasty. An Election,” by U-T photojournalist Sam Hodgson, goes deep on the beginning of the Hunter dynasty, tracing how the family managed to become a force in local and national politics while drawing out how the East County district stands apart from the popular understanding of California as a state full of coastal liberals. 

Hodgson also embedded with the major candidates as they made their case to voters to succeed Hunter, and profiled U-T reporter Morgan Cook and her investigation that led to Hunter’s conviction for campaign finance violations and his resignation. 

We’re proud: Hodgson was Voice of San Diego’s first intern. He later became a full-time photographer after serving many roles in the organization. He shot for The New York Times and now is doing some cool things at the U-T.

There’s a New Plan to Create a Plan for Balboa Park

The city is about to kick off a year-long effort to try to etch out a plan to address the challenges that have long plagued iconic Balboa Park.

For more than a decade, park advocates and civic leaders have wearied over the park’s crumbling buildings, unexecuted long-range plans and the lack of clarity on who’s in charge of setting priorities for the park often dubbed the city’s crown jewel.

Now the Union-Tribune reports that the city’s Balboa Park Committee hopes to lay out a holistic path forward for the park. The effort will begin with a Feb. 6 meeting where committee members hope to get public feedback on what shape the planning effort should take.

The announcement follows the collapse of plans to overhaul the park’s central mesa and the Inspiration Point area.

Balboa Park Committee Chairwoman Katherine Johnston said the first step in the process will be to try to set a vision for the park and to establish its short-, medium- and long-term capital and maintenance needs.

That phase of the process will benefit from a $300,000 budget allocation pushed by City Councilman Chris Ward, who represents the park.

Discussions about park leadership and potential adjustments to the Balboa Park master plan could come later depending on public feedback on next steps, Johnston said.

Notes From the Annual Homeless Count

Councilman Chris Ward, chair of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless, takes part in the 2020 point-in-time count. / Photo by Megan Wood

About 1,750 volunteers took to streets, visited parks and hiked through canyons across the county early Thursday morning for the annual point-in-time count led by the Regional Task Force on the Homeless.

Volunteers were joined by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins and other local officials who took part in the effort.

“One thing I know, as a former county supervisor and county mayor and now as governor, is that city hall can’t do this alone,” Newsom said. “There’s no compassion stepping over people on the streets or sidewalks. We rely on the hundreds of volunteers across the state to conduct these point-in-time counts each year so we get a clearer picture of just how dire this crisis is.”

Last year’s group of volunteers counted 8,102 homeless San Diegans countywide — down from the previous year’s 8,576 estimate but task force officials have said those numbers are not comparable due to a change in the count’s methodology made at the direction of federal officials. The federal government requires communities to conduct at least every other year to receive homelessness funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. San Diego has for years conducted an annual census.

Among several new changes this year, the task force switched from using paper surveys to a smartphone app. Ward, who’s also chair of the task force, said using the app has allowed areas like Orange County to have preliminary numbers available within days. A Ward spokesman said the task force has yet to set a release date for San Diego’s numbers but that the councilman plans to try to have the data released earlier this year. Point-in-time data has typically been released in late spring.

Related: The Union-Tribune reported Wednesday that homeless advocates were seeing an increase of enforcement in the days leading up to the annual census. At the same time last year, data obtained by VOSD showed police enforcement had in fact spiked in the downtown area most densely populated with homeless San Diegans. In both instances, city officials said they were responding to complaints from residents rather than trying to skew the count.

Encinitas OKs Safe Parking Lot After Marathon Meeting

After midnight Thursday, the Encinitas City Council voted 4-1 to open a safe parking program to homeless residents. Councilman Tony Kranz was the lone “no” vote.

Mayor Catherine Blakespear said she supports the program — the first to be approved in North County — because she believes it’s the moral thing to do.

“I want to protect our community character and make sure that we have as high a standard of living as we are used to and expect in Encinitas,” Blakespear said. “And in order to do that we have to do more to get in front of it because the people who are struggling unsheltered are going (up), there will be more of them.”

Emotions ran high on both sides of the debate at the meeting, which ran more than six hours and required overflow rooms. Blakespear called the turnout and passion for the plan “striking.”

The decision followed more than 100 two-minute speeches from members of the public. Some opponents of the plan stormed out of the City Council chambers during the Council members’ final comments.

Opponents aired numerous concerns with the plan, including that it would pose a risk to nearby communities and attract homeless people into the town.

Supervisor Kristin Gaspar spoke during public comment, reiterating part of her statement from a previous forum. She said Jewish Family Service, the nonprofit that will run the lot, won’t be able to screen for drugs and alcohol because of “housing first” policies.  “Homelessness is an addiction crisis disguised as a housing crisis,” she said. Yet a representative from Jewish Family Service said the agency does not allow drug or alcohol use at any of its Safe Parking Program lots, and that use of either is grounds for dismissal from the program.

Proponents said the safe parking program is not just a parking lot, but an access point for people living in their cars to connect with services to get out of homelessness. They also said there’s a lack of affordable housing in town for people living in their cars to obtain housing in Encinitas immediately and that there will be accountability over the plan because the City Council plans to evaluate the program’s success every four months.

It will be funded by a $256,000 California Homeless Emergency Aid Program grant and Encinitas will lease the 67-acre land owned by the Leichtag Foundation for $1. JFS will run the program and allow up to 25 homeless people to park with their vehicles.

School Board Prez Urges State to Ramp Up Ed Funding

In a new VOSD op-ed, San Diego Unified school board president John Lee Evans argues that the state needs to massively ramp up the amount of money it sends to local school districts.

“We are no longer willing to make painful cuts that hurt our students,” he writes. “If the largest urban districts start cutting into the bone, it could require a bailout of billions of dollars from the state. We need to acknowledge that ‘the emperor has no clothes’ and quit pretending that the current funding system is sustainable.”

VOSD’s Ashly McGlone recently reported that the district will again consider laying off employees to help close a $70 million budget hole expected this year following across-the-board raises. District officials have repeatedly pointed to the state as a primary source of their budget woes although records showed general fund revenues have surged to an all-time high.

McGlone checked up on a similar statement made by the district in 2017 that said California ranked 46th in the nation on per-pupil funding. She determined that was … a stretch.

In Other News

  • State Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins saved Senate Bill 50 from “certain death” last week when she pulled the bill into the Rules Committee for movement to the Senate floor. The bill was created to drive high-density housing near transit. “A big part of effective legislative leadership is knowing when and how to exercise extraordinary power,” writes columnist George Skelton in the Los Angeles Times.
  • The new episode of Matt Strabone’s podcast, “Show in Progress,” dove into the ongoing debate over building protected bike lanes in urban neighborhoods. For what it’s worth, a recent Union-Tribune poll found 55 percent of city residents oppose building new bike lanes, including opposition from 48 percent of Democrats.
  • Mayor Kevin Faulconer and SANDAG Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata signed an exclusivity agreement with Navy officials Thursday to redevelop the 70-acre NAVWAR complex in Old Town. The agreement supplements a contract signed in September, reports the Union-Tribune.
  • The San Diego Republican Party joins a growing list of GOP groups spending money at Trump properties. The list also includes Hunter’s campaign committee, RIP. (ProPublica)
  • Our latest San Diego Explained video provides a rundown of the cities in the county that have OK’d marijuana businesses.

The Morning Report was written by Megan Wood, Andrew Keatts, Lisa Halverstadt and Kayla Jimenez, and edited by Sara Libby. This post has been updated to clarify a statement made by Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear.

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