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Roughly six years ago, Brian Maienschein helped spearhead Project 25, a program that’s become a model for getting chronically homeless people off the street.

It began as a three-year pilot funded by the United Way to identify the city’s 25 most frequent users of emergency-medical and law-enforcement services and provide them with housing and services to help them get on their feet. It ended up working with the city’s 34 heaviest service users, instead of 25. A study of the program’s three-year pilot showed more than $2 million in savings.

Maienschein, a former San Diego City Council member who started the program while working for the United Way before being elected to the state Assembly in 2012, has since authored a number of bills focused on homelessness.

We talked to him about how Project 25 inspired two bills introduced this year.

Your AB 2256 requires homeless-services providers to report certain data to the state about their clients — ambulance rides, hospital stays, ER visits, arrests — similar to what Project 25 tracked to find its participants. What do you hope will result from this data collection?

You have to have information to make good policy decisions. So, this will help on a couple levels: One, it will provide statewide data. Secondly, it will provide local data. It would allow for a more focused, efficient approach to dealing with homelessness.

Another bill, AB 1403, would allow nonprofits and local governments to create joint powers authorities (JPAs). Can you explain JPAs for the folks at home?

JPAs combine separate governing bodies on a specific issue. So, in this case, it would be homelessness. For the first time, because of my bill, you could take a nonprofit and put it together with a public agency [to work specifically on homelessness]…. For programs that have not yet begun, the creation of a JPA can make the process much more simple. One of the biggest difficulties I experienced while getting Project 25 off the ground was getting the dozens of agencies, departments and local nonprofits to share information with each other. A JPA would create a forum in which the relevant information could be shared.

Could the state provide more support for programs like Project 25, which almost ran out of funding in 2014?

I think the state can support localities that have effective programs like Project 25. I think the state could look and say, “Hey, in San Diego, Project 25 was a huge success…. How do we make Project 25, Project 250?” Localities where they aren’t doing anything on homelessness, or where what they’re doing is ineffective, need to come up with something that shows that it works and then it could be supported…. I think homelessness is something people have traditionally given a lot of lip-service to, but not really wanted to do something about.

Anything in the works for next session related to homelessness?

We’re going to get these [bills] through and then, yeah, we’re going to do more bills…. We’re gathering momentum; we’re building a foundation to do something on this issue.

– Kelly Davis

Bill to Require Wastewater Cycling Advances Despite Water Agency Opposition

A bill moving through the state legislature would require cities up and down the coast to recycle half of the wastewater they dump into the ocean.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Bob Hertzberg, a Los Angeles Democrat. “California’s drought has forced us to rethink everything we do with water and consider how to be more intelligent in how we manage it,” Hertzberg said in a statement.

Officials across the state are increasingly thinking about expensive projects to help the state cope with the drought. Hertzberg’s bill piggybacks on language in the state constitution that requires the state’s waters to be used for a “beneficial use to the fullest extent of which they are capable.” He cites estimates that 1.5 billion gallons of treated wastewater are dumped into coastal California waters each day. That water is treated but not to the extent that humans can drink it.

The bill has passed the Senate and is pending in the Assembly, but it’s meeting widespread opposition from state water agencies.

San Diego’s water department – which is already working on a plan to recycle wastewater it currently dumps into the ocean – is among the agencies opposed to the bill.

The city water department joined other agencies in the Bay Area and Los Angeles to call the bill “an unachievable mandate without necessary exemptions or financing for the billions of dollars in new infrastructure that would be needed.” The state’s largest water supplier, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, is also currently opposed.

San Diego is working on a plan to produce about a third of the city’s drinking water from wastewater that is currently dumped into the ocean from a treatment plant in Point Loma. Would that allow us to comply with the bill, should it become law? A water department spokesman said the city was still calculating what percentage of the water the city currently dumps into the ocean would be recycled under that program.

Supporters of the bill include the California Coastal Protection Network, California League of Conservation Voters, Heal the Bay, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club.

– Ry Rivard

San Diego’s Reps React to California’s New State Budget

State lawmakers this week approved a $122.5 billion budget that funnels $2 billion into the state’s rainy-day fund and sets aside $400 million for affordable housing programs. (Sacramento Bee)

Some of San Diego’s representatives in Sacramento issued statements on their reactions to the deal. Unsurprisingly, those responses broke down on partisan lines.

Democrats, who can negotiate the budget without Republican support because of the size of their legislative majorities, hailed it as a balance of fiscal restraint and increasing needed services.

Assemblywoman Toni Atkins praised the deal’s elimination of a cap for families who receive welfare benefits and its increase in affordable housing funding. It’s the last budget she’ll pass in the assembly, before a likely move to the State Senate at the end of the year.

“When I arrived, we were facing a $26-billion deficit, and we had to resort to some creative budgeting tactics and were forced to cut many vital programs,” Atkins said in a statement. “We’ve come a long way since then, and I’m proud to have contributed what I could to the success.”

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez touted a $527 million increase in funding for early childhood education, but said it still isn’t enough.

“I look forward to continuing to work to ensure that one day, every family in California will have access to affordable, high-quality, childcare and preschool, but we took a giant step forward by passing this budget today,” she wrote in a statement.

Sen. Ben Hueso said the budget met agreed-upon funding priorities, and he trumpeted specific allocations within his district, like $80 million for the Salton Sea.

“Our focus continues to be reflective of our constituents needs while investing in the protection of our resources,” Hueso wrote in a statement

Republicans weren’t so pleased.

Assemblyman Brian Jones warned the spending would set off a future crisis and complained Democrats didn’t work across the aisle on issues like foster-care, housing and DentiCal.

“The Democrats preach collaboration, but sadly it appears, like this budget, that was an empty promise,” he wrote in a statement.

Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, likewise, ridiculed the budget as reckless and said spending increases that outpace the rate of economic growth in the state were intended to increase taxes in the future.

“When the Department of Finance projects a four billion dollar deficit by 2019-2020, there is a problem and that problem is we are passing pork filled unbalanced budgets,” he wrote in a statement.

Sen. Pat Bates criticized the budget for maintaining the state’s cap on how much school districts can save in their own rainy-day funds, and for spending increases on child care and high-speed rail.

“Needless to say, the higher ‘temporary’ taxes that voters approved in 2012 to help the state with its financial problems have only led to more overall spending,” she wrote in a statement.

Special Interest Money Pours in to Statewide Races

This is the last year until 2024 that anyone in the Assembly will be forced from office by term limits, now that officials can stay in office for 12 years based on a law approved by voters in 2012. That, combined with open primaries, in which the top two finishers regardless of party affiliation advance to a general election, has created fertile ground for interest groups to influence California’s elections, according to an article this week by our friends at CalMatters.

They surmise that it could lead to business-friendly Democrats who aren’t supported by traditional left-leaning coalitions making up a larger share of the next legislature.

“The big-money special interests have figured out the ‘top two’ a lot better than the rest of us have, and it’s paying off,” labor-friendly Democratic political consultant Steve Maviglio told CalMatters.

The June primary saw independent expenditure committees spend nearly $29 million supporting candidates.

None of San Diego’s races crossed $1 million in outside spending. That’s not so surprising, since none of San Diego’s races were hotly contested.

– Andrew Keatts

Kelly Davis

Kelly Davis is a freelance journalist focusing on criminal justice and social issues. Follow her on Twitter @kellylynndavis...

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