Summer Stephan (seated) and Genevieve Jones-Wright took part in a public safety forum at Temple Emanu-El. / Photo by Scott Lewis

The eyes of the national criminal justice movement are on San Diego this month, thanks to the district attorney’s race.

The two candidates present a stark contrast: Genevieve Jones-Wright, a reform-minded public defender, is facing Summer Stephan, a tough-on-crime career prosecutor.

Yet national observers have missed a key difference between this race: California has in recent years already enacted many of the reforms that candidates like Jones-Wright are promising.

For instance, Philadelphia’s new district attorney, Larry Krasner, is often compared to Jones-Wright. Earlier this year, he released an extensive memo outlining big changes his office is making on what crimes it charges, and the sentences its attorneys will seek. The changes were hailed as revolutionary and a model for like-minded prosecutors.

Yet many of those changes are already law here in California, through measures like Prop. 47, Prop. 57, Prop. 64 and AB 109.

For Jones-Wright, it raises the question: What does it mean to be a reformer in reform-minded California? For Stephan, it’s a different question: Are Jones-Wright’s ideas really so scary, if they’re in keeping with a trend that’s already underway?

Both candidates answer those questions in a new story by Andrew Keatts. Jones-Wright has a list of things she’d like to do that go beyond what the state has already done, and says she wants her DA’s office to take on a leadership role pushing the state even further. Stephan said the state’s reforms have been good and bad, and she wants to be part of patching holes in them that would make them tougher on crime.

The DA campaign has become perhaps the most-watched race on the June ballot. Here’s a round-up of other weekend coverage of the race.

Gaspar Goes to Washington

President Donald Trump has invited Escondido Mayor Sam Abed and County Board of Supervisors Chair Kristin Gaspar to the White House to discuss California’s so-called sanctuary laws, according to the Union-Tribune. Both Republican elected officials have been critical of the new laws. Gaspar called the invitation “quite an honor.”

To fully appreciate this development, let’s consider a few things.

  • Shortly after the June 2016 primary, Gaspar told KPBS she voted for Trump because “I think it’s important that we have someone that moves forward with the Republican principles.”
  • But a month before the 2016 general election, Gaspar backtracked, saying, “I’ve lost my support for Trump. Unfortunately, in the primary I was hopeful, like many other people, that he would bring people together and fulfill his promise to calm his rhetoric to be presidential, and I have no reason to believe that he’ll be presidential.”
  • In 2017, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law three bills, including SB 54, or The California Values Act. Two months ago, the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit to undo the laws.
  • In January, Gaspar entered the 49th Congressional District race. One poll in February put her third among the Republican contenders.
  • In April, at Gaspar’s urging, the county threw its support behind the federal government. But because officials missed the window to file an amicus brief, the vote was merely symbolic.
  • Since then, Gaspar has appeared several times on Fox News — as recently as Friday — to call the laws “dangerous.”

We recently dismantled some of the claims that Abed and other leading Republicans have been making, and are likely to make at the White House, about the new laws in California.

More Politics News

  • San Diego wants the piece of land known as Fifth Avenue Landing so it can expand the convention center, and the various stakeholders appear close to settling the deal. But there are still a few things to keep in mind, Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts note in the Politics Report.
  • This week’s Sacramento Report includes thoughts from lawmakers on how to better serve cross-border students and details on two bills from Assemblyman Brian Maienschein meant to help mothers experiencing postpartum depression.
  • City Councilman David Alvarez, who’s running for county supervisor in 2020, and homeless advocate Michael McConnell excoriate San Diego County officials in an op-ed over a newly released report on the county’s response to the hepatitis A crisis. “The county cannot continue its long history of inaction and this cannot continue to be normal,” they write.
  • On this week’s Voice of San Diego Podcast, hosts Sara Libby, Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts consider the collective eyebrow that was raised during a gubernatorial debate when Rancho Santa Fe businessman John Cox claimed he “led the recall of Bob Filner and got rid of him as the San Diego mayor.”
  • The U-T endorsed former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for governor. Surprise! There’s a north-south political rivalry taking place in the editorial pages of major papers. The San Francisco Chronicle went for Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom while the Sac Bee supported Newsom and state Treasurer John Chiang for the primary.

In Other News

South Bay’s for the Birds: Meet Cockatoo Grove

From Randy Dotinga: Where the heck – and what the heck – is Cockatoo Grove?

The other day, I saw a local weather map that included a mention of this South Bay place in the Bonita area. I grew up in Chula Vista, but I’d never heard of it. Maybe it’s #fakenews. Maybe it’s time to make a flap!

I pecked around a bit and discovered that Cockatoo Grove does exist. It’s a neighborhood in Chula Vista next to Southwestern College and north of Otay Ranch, and its history goes way back to at least the 1890s. It was once so well known that stories about the community college in the newspaper used “Cockatoo Grove” as a dateline.

According to the book “San Diego County Place Names, A to Z,” which describes Cockatoo Grove as “one of the more unusual county names,” the neighborhood is so named because an Austrian immigrant owned 160 acres there and raised white-crested Australian cockatoos. A 1925 San Diego Union story says Cockatoo Grove was also a station on a stagecoach route, and it mentions that the the Austrian had a vineyard and a wine press, perhaps so he could make some vino to help him cope with a bunch of some of the loudest birds known to man.

The cockatoos are gone now, replaced by homes. But that’s OK. You know what they say: No fowl, no harm.

The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx and Andrew Keatts, and edited by Sara Libby.

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