What We Learned This Week - Voice of San Diego

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What We Learned This Week

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Mayor Kevin Faulconer pulled off a pretty good jedi mind trick this week when he tweeted a breathless clapback at Gov. Gavin Newsom: “No, police officers and fire fighters will NOT be cut first — at least not in San Diego. I would never hold out first responders as leverage to balance my budget,” he wrote in response to a story in which Newsom warned that without federal assistance, first responders could be cut in a budget crisis.

In holding out his love of first responders in a blatantly political missive to a potential rival, Faulconer was doing literally the exact thing he was accusing Newsom of. (I covered the 2012 Democratic National Convention in North Carolina, and former President Bill Clinton absolutely brought the house down when he knocked then-VP candidate Paul Ryan for accusing President Barack Obama of robbing Medicare of billions of dollars. “It takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did,” Clinton said.)

Faulconer has, throughout his mayoral tenure, made a point of publicly displaying his love for police officers. When it comes to responding to high-profile scandals involving the department, well, you might be shocked to learn he’s less eager.

Late last week, the mayor held a virtual press conference and his office sent out multiple press releases touting new numbers that show the city experienced a 1.3 percent overall drop in crime. (The mayor’s office, in a bit of a stretch, attributed this drop to a digital marketing campaign aimed at recruiting new SDPD officers.)

We revealed a different set of numbers involving SDPD this week that the mayor has yet to hold any press conferences about or use to pick a fight with the governor. The department has – by far – the most untested rape kits of any agency in the state, according to a new audit. SDPD says it has since sent its untested kits to a third-party lab for testing – and it provided some even more troubling news. The number of untested kits grew even higher after the department reported its numbers to the Department of Justice. (Also, SDPD, uh, doesn’t know who reported the numbers to the Department of Justice.)

This news comes after a year’s worth of deeply disturbing reports about SDPD’s handling of its rape kits. It follows several years’ worth of reports, including endless studies and data sets, showing the department stops and detains minority residents at a rate higher than their share of the population.

The mayor has consistently declined to proactively address these glaring, unacceptable results in the way that he publicly celebrates good news from the department. When pressed, he’s offered vague, meaningless statements about equal treatment.

The drop in crime numbers is a great achievement. Faulconer and others should feel free to celebrate it. But as rape victims whose cases go cold and residents profiled because of their skin color know all too well, a city’s crime rate is far from the only marker of how its police perform.

If Faulconer is going to use the department’s achievements to antagonize his political rivals and hold back-slapping press conferences, he’s obligated to acknowledge and address its deficiencies too.

What VOSD Learned This Week

Business and political leaders had reopening on the brain this week. San Diego school officials say they won’t reopen schools unless the state gives them more money. (Can they even do that? Short answer: Probably not.) Cardiff schools are exploring a hybrid model where students attend part time, but the mayor of Encinitas suggested they try again.

Meanwhile, tourism officials plan to market San Diego as a destination to … other San Diegans, once things begin reopening. And when that happens, virtually every facet of life as we knew it will look much, much different.

We talked about what’s next for this phase of reopening on the podcast, too.

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Homeless residents throughout the county are confronting the same dilemma during the pandemic: There’s nowhere for them to go.

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Faulconer’s latest budget would dramatically scale back the city’s controversial smart streetlights program.

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The state and county aim to induce widespread testing in senior homes, but advocates say efforts are moving too slowly and lack teeth.

What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

“I have learned that butt selfies require charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent (deep bow to ‘Drag Race’).” – The paper of record’s exploration of butt selfies was a true joy.

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