The pandemic has exposed critical gaps in our public health system – a system that has long been underfunded. Many argue that now is the time to change this funding imbalance. Meanwhile, San Diego city councilors say it is time to crack down on racial differences in policing. Plus, a new study shows that San Diego has some of the most polluted homeowners in the country.
Good morning, I'm Annica Colbert … it's Thursday July 1st
What are the public health lessons learned from the pandemic?
More on that next, but first … let's make the headlines ….
The state's gas tax is being raised by a few cents today, bringing the total tax to 51.1 cents per gallon. The increase is due to the Senate's draft law 1, which was passed by the legislature in 2017. He increases the tax on road and bridge works. Republican Senator Brian Jones of Santee has called for the excise duty to be suspended.
"For the governor to use his executive powers to waive excise taxes for next year and use some of the billions of dollars surplus the state is proposing in the budget this year to replenish that excise tax."
The California Interscholastic Federation, the CIF, cleared the Coronado High School boys' basketball team's victory after a racist gesture towards a mostly Latino team. After recently winning a regional championship game, some Coronado players threw tortillas at their opponents, Orange Glen High School players. In addition to the cleared victory, the basketball team was placed on probation for three academic years.
There will be no fireworks in La Jolla on July 4th. Officials from San Diego say the La Jolla boosters did not get the permits in time they need to hold fireworks at La Jolla Point. Richard Miller of the Sierra Club is happy that the sea lion colony has not been disturbed by fireworks.
"The environmental situation there has changed dramatically and I don't think they took that into account."
The La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation did not respond to calls for comment.
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Stay with me for more local news.
The pandemic has exposed critical gaps in the public health systems in the United States and San Diego. Some communities had access to resources that other communities did not. Proponents have long been calling for more funding for health officials. They say the time is now to grab the attention and funding that the pandemic has brought to public health … because it won't be there forever.
KPBS health reporter Matt Hoffman has the story.
The subject of underfunding by health authorities is decades old
San Diego County's Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten, says local health officials have lost significant long-term funding, and with a look at the pandemic, now is the time to change that.
Oh, now is absolutely the opportunity
The health department didn't see a decline in funding like others, but that's in large part due to a team of fellowship writers receiving state and federal dollars. Nick Macchione, director of the health and personnel services agency, says state and federal government funding is usually reactive.
When there is a crisis, the funding will flow in instead of using our funds to invest the dollars and build the infrastructure. I don't think there is a community in the whole country that says it has the adequacy of its public health infrastructure
At the height of the pandemic, the health department more than doubled its budget and almost doubled its workforce.
That was just because of Covid-19 – what's on our plate? Everything. Do we need a lot more public health resources? Absolutely yes
Macchione says the pandemic could be the eye opener for state and federal officials – much like the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
Think about how security and airports have changed and how awareness of the pandemic and COVID-19 has changed and will do for us in this country – and we hope it is for the better
He says the pandemic has exposed gaps in people's access to resources –
It was no surprise when people lacked food security or a job and therefore had to go to work or feel compelled to go to work because they were unable to provide for their families and when they were sick Unfortunately, these were the prerequisites for viral distribution
The county invested early in programs to build trust with communities with which they had no connection. And they hired promotoras, also known as community health workers, to spread the word in Latino communities …
We got contracts – we put our money where our mouths are and we put those contracts out so that the churches would have people who looked like them and did this outreach
And they were the game changers – they became extenders for our nurses
The state later provided one-time grants for similar outreach programs, but officials want to keep them going long-term. Especially if another crisis occurs.
In general, Macchione says that basic issues need to be addressed, rather than just responding to situations like the mental crisis and the increasing number of camps on the streets of San Diego.
It's these social determinants – so it's housing, it helps people at work, it's actually the education to move people forward. So these are things you don't think about in the public health field, but if you brought that up, you would really improve the public health!
Wooten says the health department needs to have a well-trained workforce and the right infrastructure to be completely effective and agile.
So for us in San Diego it is our registry, our vaccination registry or our monitoring system and our laboratory systems and IT systems that we want to improve. This is not a small dollar amount, but a large dollar amount
The pandemic is receding, but not the health department. Officials reallocate resources to address mental health issues and people who live on the streets.
There are other needs that have been paused and then other things that are unfortunately beginning to rise and so – we are again – where public health comes in, where there is a need to move those resources there immediately
Governors office officials say they recognize investment in core public health functions has stayed the same or decreased over the past decade and are currently conducting a review to assess the state's response on the public health budget. MH KPBS news
San Diego city council members say it is time to tackle racial differences in policing. Another report follows, outlining how blacks and Latinx people are more likely to be stopped by the police.
KPBS Race and Equity reporter Cristina Kim tells us what the council wants to do next …
Council members want data-driven policy changes and ongoing community discussions.
Councilor Joe LaCava says the time to act is now.
L3: Councilor Joe LaCava, District 1
"With the completion of the CPE study, I think we need to give our studies a break and focus our attention on action."
This report was published earlier this month. It's one in a series that shows racial differences in the San Diego Police Department.
It found that police stopped a Black San Diegan for a non-traffic violation more than four times more often than a white person. This is true even when factors such as poverty or crime rates are controlled.
When the report was released, Police Chief David Nisleit told KPBS that he was not surprised. But he kept saying that his results showed that there was discrimination.
L3: Chef David Nisleit, SDPD
"Disparities will exist because not everything in society happens along the demographic line … And that's why it is important to understand that inequality is not the same as discrimination."
More than 25 community members made public comments during the meeting.
Many, like Ahmad Mahmoud, say they want to see an end to pretext stops and consensual searches. Mahmoud is critical of Chief Nisleit's reaction.
L3: Ahmad Mahmoud
“It makes absolutely no sense to me, as the police chief can say, that disparities are not the same as discrimination, which is basically on the verge of extinguishing our experience as non-white people in this city, with the constant overpolicing, especially by the Band suppression unit. "
In response to the report the police have had since March, the department will be releasing a new consent search policy in the coming weeks … something community members and city council members are dying to check. Cristina Kim. KPBS news.
A sign that the US military is slowly returning to normal is that the USO is making its first stops since the pandemic began. KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh says this includes two stops in San Diego.
The USO, known for its live events at bases around the world, turned to virtual events during the pandemic. You were at the San Diego Naval Base Tuesday night. USO West chief Bob Kurkjian says part of their job is to combat isolation among the troops.
“Mental health and mental resilience are so important in the military. It's so incredibly important that we bring people back to the world. "
About half of the US military is vaccinated. The USO follows the rules that apply in the local bases. This first USO tour began on Sunday at the American base in Guantanamo Bay Cuba. The USO is making a second stop tonight in San Diego, in Miramar. Steve Walsh KPBS News
Coming soon … A new study shows San Diego homeowners are among the most costly in the country. More on that right after the break.
A recent study by LendingTree says about 40 percent of San Diego homeowners spend more than a third of their income on mortgages and other related expenses. These are some of the highest percentages in the country. So how will rising housing costs affect this?
Phillip Molnar is a real estate and business reporter for the San Diego Union Tribune. He covered this topic and the most recent study, and spoke to Jade Hindmon, moderator of the KPBS Midday Edition. Here is the interview.
Homeowners in San Diego are among the most vulnerable in the country. Where are we standing?
Speaker 2: 00:33 So we're the third tallest in the nation after Los Angeles and Miami. And this loan tree study was kind of interesting because it uses the latest data available, but for 2019 it was the latest available. So this is basically telling us that we are going into the pandemic. Things have been pretty tough when you own a home in San Diego. So we have to wait and see what happened after prices skyrocketed over the past year and a half. Exactly. Like you
Speaker 1: 01:02 Just mentioned, a large number from San Diego, we were already spending more than a third of their income on mortgages before the 2020 pandemic house prices skyrocketed, and they're still rising to all-time highs. but the ratio of income to housing debt is unlikely to change significantly. Why this?
Speaker 2: 01:20 Well, income has increased for many people who were able to work and stay at home during the pandemic. However, we also know that unemployment in San Diego hit a record high of around 15% at one point during the pandemic. So if you look at income to spend on mortgages and all that stuff, it might be better for some people surviving this pandemic, but it will be bad for some people too. So we're still waiting for everything I've heard from some apartment analysts to pick up. And it sounds super cold, but the people who couldn't afford a house before the pandemic can't afford one now. If we look at these numbers, we may just see home ownership dwindling, but maybe the people who actually got homes are doing better with their back payments than they were before. We just have to wait and see. Hm.
Speaker 1: 02:13 And let's talk a little more about this, about lower income homeowners and those who may have lost income due to business closings. How are you affected?
Speaker 2: 02:23 Many low-income people were worst injured during COVID. We did a study by the San Diego Government Association and they found that nearly 40% of jobs that paid less than 27,000 a year are around $ 15 an hour. These were lost in April. But if you look at jobs that were paid from 27,000 to 60,000, only 6% of those jobs were lost. And all jobs that paid more than 60,000 a year were only lost 3%. So from these numbers we can see that people on low incomes were hit hardest by this stuff during the pandemic. They're probably so far out of their chances of buying a home at this point that we don't even know if this study is going to change that much because if they couldn't get a home before, it's going to be a lot harder now, since San Diego County's prices have increased more than 20% in the past 12 months,
Speaker 1: 03:19 You know, this is really exposing the inequalities between the rich and those on lower incomes, and that some rich are coming out of this pandemic and are actually spending less on housing than they were before. Can you talk about it
Speaker 2: 03:34 Before the pandemic started, about 31% of homeowners were spending 20% or less of their monthly income on housing costs. And if we think about it, there is a comparative study. I am currently considering renting out with tenants, but many people in San Diego spend well over 20% of their income on housing. So we can see that even before the pandemic, homeowners were far better off than the general population. So it is very likely that mortgage rates are so low that some of these homeowners will refinance and get their monthly bills even lower than they already were. So, yes, we are going to see a huge disparity emerging from the pandemic for the people
Speaker 1: 04:17 Who recently bought a house. Is there a point where the high cost of housing negates the benefits of those low mortgage rates?
Speaker 2: 04:25 Yeah definitely because we hear a lot from real estate agents and of course they always buy now buy now but you know mortgage rates are so crazy low right now that one of the thoughts is I have to get into a house to benefit from it. But if you look at the average price for a San Diego home, then one of the things is like, yes, the interest rates are low, but if you break it all down, you're still paying about 130,000 more for a down payment on a mid-price home . It's just bullshit. Because even if this monthly payment may be a bit more manageable, it doesn't look so bad if this down payment is extreme. So I spoke to real estate agents during the pandemic, you know, and one of my biggest questions is who is going to get these homes. And often it's these younger millennial couples, but they get help from their parents. So this deposit is artificial in a way because it's more of an anecdotal story, but I hear that over and over again. So it's not that the person who just bought the house for a really large amount actually had that down payment there. I mean, there are only so many tech billionaires and millionaires buying houses. So it might be interesting to see how that plays out over the long term.
Speaker 1: 05:42 Do tenants feel the same cost burden?
Speaker 2: 05:44 For Housing? No not true. As for tenants, rental rates in San Diego have increased roughly 5% per year. This is still difficult if you are a renter, but in the past rental rates have increased more than 7% up to 8% in a year. At least in this regard, we see this 5%. And of course, especially downtown if you want to rent especially in the East Village, or even some of the new complexes at the OTI ranch I've seen in some in Mission Valley, a lot of them are just trying to bring it up Get people to sign new leases. So they offer and rent up to four to six weeks for free. And often they actually lower that deposit. You know, often when you move into a junky place in Golden Hill or something they say, okay, we need a month and a half to rent. So you're spending $ 2,000 just to get somewhere. But many of these places lower the deposit. I heard that the Mission Valley had security deposits of only $ 500. So for once we can say that it may not be so bad for tenants at the moment. If you take everything into consideration
That was Phillip Molnar, real estate and business reporter for the San Diego Union Tribune.
That's it for today's podcast. Watch the KPBS Midday Edition At Noon on KPBS Radio or the midday podcast. You can also watch the KPBS Evening Edition at 5 p.m. on KPBS Television, and as always, you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I am Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a nice day.