What San Diego says about California
“It’s hard for any legislator to admit that a policy they championed, and put a lot of money behind, is going to make things worse.”
That comment, from San Diego City Councilmember Raul Campillo, came during a Saturday panel on child care at Politifest, an annual series of debates and discussions hosted by the nonprofit newsroom Voice of San Diego.
It also highlighted how policies crafted — or not crafted — by state lawmakers in Sacramento ripple across California, impacting communities in different ways. Although the event was geared toward San Diego residents, it was impossible to miss the imprint of the state’s approach to key issues — ranging from child care to labor to homelessness — in local conditions, actions and responses.
I attended Politifest with CalMatters Editor-in-Chief Dave Lesher, where we broke down the seven statewide propositions on the Nov. 8 ballot for an in-person and online audience. (You can watch our presentation here, and don’t forget to check out CalMatters’ Voter Guide for more information!)
I also went to a bunch of different panels to see how state policies were shaping — and shaping up in — San Diego. Here are some key takeaways:
- Child care and early childhood education. Campillo’s comment was a response to Laura Kohn, senior director for care and education at Mission Driven Finance, asserting that California’s multibillion-dollar push for universal transitional kindergarten is “breaking the child care sector.” Among the problems cited by Kohn and Kim McDougall, vice president of social services for the YMCA of San Diego County: Transitional kindergarten often isn’t a full-day program, meaning “it’s not a true child care solution” for working parents. TK, which must be held on a school campus, will likely offer a “junior kindergarten” curriculum, rather than a “nurturing, play-based version of child care” that many parents want. And its promise of better wages and benefits will poach providers from the already understaffed child care industry, forcing many small businesses to close and leaving the most vulnerable workers behind. “It’s been — not gorgeous, in how it’s been developed and built and pushed down,” McDougall said. “It needs to honor the existing delivery system for early care rather than being pushed through (local education agencies).” Kohn said the Legislature needs to “come and fix” its plan, “otherwise parents are screwed.” Still, there are bright spots: Miren Algorri, a family care provider in Chula Vista and a member of California’s first child care providers union, noted the union recently struck a deal with the state for supplemental pay, a $100 million health care fund, $40 million for provider training and education and $240,000 to study the feasibility of offering retirement benefits.
- The politics of organized labor. Some of the event’s most interesting comments came from Brigitte Browning, president of Unite-HERE Local and executive secretary-treasurer of the San Diego Labor Council. Browning said that as San Diego has transitioned from a Republican to Democratic stronghold, it has actually become “harder” for organized labor to achieve its goals. Now “there are shades of Democrats, and the funding often goes to the moderate candidate,” Browning said, citing the high-dollar race for a seat representing San Diego in the state Assembly that saw business-friendly Democrat David Alvarez win over the labor-backed Georgette Gómez. (Another factor: California’s top-two primary system, which Browning said “benefits the moderate candidate more than the left candidate.”) Browning also charged that some Republicans change their party affiliation to Democrat because they know they can’t win otherwise in California, but remain GOP-ers at heart — an apparent allusion to Rick Caruso, the billionaire businessman who re-registered as a Democrat before launching his bid for Los Angeles mayor. The shades-of-blue dynamic in San Diego is similar to that in the state Legislature, where divides within the Democratic Party often determine the outcome of controversial legislation.
- And last but not least, homelessness. Nathan Fletcher, chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, said that CARE Court — Gov. Gavin Newsom’s controversial plan to make it easier for counties to compel people with serious mental health issues into treatment and housing — is “a useful tool” but won’t “unilaterally alleviate all the poverty and suffering in the world.” Fletcher also said the county’s ability to implement CARE Court could be constrained by “a critical shortage of behavioral health workers.” That was echoed by San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, who said “the Great Resignation is real in the homelessness services sector,” and although the city is “pushing hard and fast” to address homelessness, “we need the workforce to do it.” Gloria also said that the state has “unfinished business when it comes to conservatorship reform” — a statement that earned him some boos from the audience — and that he plans to work with Democratic state Sen. Susan Eggman of Stockton to reintroduce bills in her mental health package that failed to advance. And, in a nod to the politicization surrounding homelessness — and former NBA player and San Diego hype man Bill Walton calling on him to resign for how he’s handled the issue — Gloria said, “I need your help, not your criticism. I need you to pick up an oar and start rowing with me, not tweeting at me.”
Get ready to vote: Find out everything you need to know about voting in California’s Nov. 8 election in the CalMatters Voter Guide, which includes information on races, candidates and propositions, as well as videos, interactives and campaign finance data.
Other Stories You Should Know
1 Newsom calls for special session to tax oil industry
Newsom just took his feud with the oil and gas industry up a notch: On Friday, the governor announced plans to call a special legislative session on Dec. 5 to consider enacting a windfall profits tax on the oil and gas industry, which he accused of “rank price-gouging” and “fleecing” consumers with sky-high costs at the pump, CalMatters’ Alexei Koseff reports. Though details remain scant, Newsom’s proposal could result in the state sending taxpayer rebates similar to those that began landing in residents’ bank accounts on Friday.
The Democratic leaders of the state Legislature expressed what appeared to be lukewarm support for Newsom’s proclamation: “We look forward to examining the Governor’s detailed proposal when we receive it,” Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins of San Diego and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon of Lakewood said in a joint statement. Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, urged Newsom to retract his proposal and instead suspend the state gas tax.
- The special session could be politically perilous: It’s set to begin the same day the Legislature swears in dozens of new members following the Nov. 8 election — positioning them for tough votes on a tax hike from the get-go.
- And the oil industry, a powerful player in California politics, is already pushing back. In a response posted Friday to a Newsom administration letter asking five oil refinery executives to explain the dramatic uptick in gas prices, Scott Folwarkow, vice president of state government affairs for Valero, noted that “California is the most expensive operating environment in the country and a very hostile regulatory environment for refining. … Adding further costs, in the form of new taxes or regulatory constraints, will only further strain the fuel market and adversely impact refiners and ultimately those costs will pass to California consumers.”
In other car-related news: California is a hot spot for catalytic converter theft, with 37% of claims tracked by the National Insurance Crime Bureau in 2021 coming from the Golden State. Newsom just signed into law three bills that aim to crack down on catalytic converter theft, but will they really make a difference? And why did one key proposal backed by law enforcement not make it out of Sacramento? CalMatters’ Grace Gedye takes a closer look.
2 Voter fraud in California: What’s the deal?
A telltale sign the Nov. 8 election is getting closer: In addition to the oodles of campaign flyers piling up in your mailbox, county elections offices are also required to begin sending out mail-in ballots no later than today. California’s law requiring that every active, registered voter be sent a mail-in ballot — which Newsom signed last year — has changed the nature of running for office or pushing a ballot measure: “Campaigns have to get their mailers out quicker, or increase TV advertising so it hits at the same time ballots arrive in mailboxes,” Tommy Gong, deputy county clerk-recorder for Contra Costa County, told the Mercury News. “It extends the campaign period. They have to spend more money over a month of voting versus a weekend of voting.”
Universal vote-by-mail has also increased concerns about election integrity and voter fraud in California. So, in this comprehensive explainer, CalMatters’ Sameea Kamal breaks down some of the most common voter fraud myths, takes a look at how California is safeguarding elections and fighting disinformation, explores the role of election observers and poll workers and reminds you of your rights as a voter. For more, check out Sameea’s piece.
Latest coverage of the 2022 general election in California
Other election news you should know:
- Perhaps no statewide ballot measure is roiling California’s political world more than Proposition 30, which would raise taxes on millionaires to fund electric vehicle programs and other climate initiatives. The measure has California’s timber industry and firefighters at loggerheads, while Zócalo Public Square columnist Joe Mathews argued Sunday “Prop. 30 is so bad it might be good.” Also Sunday, the Wall Street Journal columnist Allysia Finley tried to explain Newsom’s unusual alliance with the California Republican Party in opposing the measure by noting that many millionaire donors to the “No on 30” campaign belong to Newsom’s “wealthy liberal donor base.” Meanwhile, a Friday poll from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies and the Los Angeles Times found that 55% of registered voters back the state’s 2035 ban on the sale of all new gas-powered cars, but just 20% say they’re likely to buy an all-electric vehicle next time they shop for a new car or truck.
3 Congenital syphilis rates soar in California
COVID and monkeypox have been dominating California’s public health discourse, but another serious threat has been quietly metastasizing in the background: maternal and congenital syphilis. The sexually transmitted infection is occurring at rates not seen in two decades, and California now has the country’s sixth-highest rate of congenital syphilis, with numbers increasing every year, CalMatters’ Kristen Hwang reports in this stunning, deeply reported series into the resurgence of an infection once considered nearly eradicated. Congenital syphilis — when the infection is passed from mother to baby during pregnancy — can prove fatal to the infant if left untreated.
- Dr. Dominika Seidman, an ob-gyn at UCSF and Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital: “This should be a never event. It is an absolute disgrace that we are even talking about congenital syphilis.”
- Dr. Mohammad Nael Mhaissen, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera: “Look at the resources put together for COVID compared to resources for STDs in general. It pales in comparison. These resources are lacking completely in public health and that directly contributed to its reemergence.”
Indeed, more than half of women who passed syphilis to their child reported receiving no or delayed prenatal care, according to a California Department of Public Health analysis of 2018 data. Half reported methamphetamine use, one-quarter reported homelessness and another quarter reported recent incarceration.
- Seidman: “On the ground, what we are seeing is the needs of people are so magnified and so much more intense than they were a decade ago.”
To address these complex socioeconomic situations, public health departments and community health centers across California are putting together specialized teams to find and treat pregnant patients who are often homeless or battling addiction. Kristen takes a look at one such team working in rural Shasta County.
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: If development costs continue to soar, the land that Newsom and the Legislature have opened to housing needy families will go largely unused.
Other things worth your time
In leaked audio, L.A. council members make racist remarks, mock colleagues. // Los Angeles Times
L.A. council President Nury Martinez faces pressure to resign after racist remarks in leaked audio. // Los Angeles Times
How California’s bullet train went off the rails. // New York Times
In Gavin Newsom’s Fair Oaks backyard, proud Democrats are few and far between. // Sacramento Bee
Will new housing rules stop San Diego from building in high-fire areas? // San Diego Union-Tribune
Bay Area running out of time to convince state it can build 441,000 new homes. // Mercury News
Pandemic exodus left Bay Area with largest drop in household income in U.S. // Washington Post
For an alleged stalker of women, San Francisco is proving to be a consequence-free zone. // San Francisco Chronicle
3 deadly shootings unfolded outside Sacramento bars this year. What happens downtown at 2 a.m.? // Sacramento Bee
Oakland police want to end federal oversight. Two ‘deeply troubling’ investigations may be a setback. // San Francisco Chronicle
Sheriff corruption trial probes alleged gun-permit favoring. // Mercury News
Brooke Jenkins got paid big bucks by group linked to Boudin recall. Ethics complaint accuses her of breaking the law. // San Francisco Standard
Judge halts some prisoner transfers in California, citing violence. // Sacramento Bee
California tribes will manage, protect state coastal areas. // Associated Press
In California, one pine tree has survived for 4,800 years. // New York Times
CalMatters CEO Neil Chase selected to join LION’s independent news board of directors. // CalMatters