Photo by Sam Hodgson

San Diego County has a unique way of trying to detect welfare fraud: Anyone applying for welfare has to agree to unscheduled searches of their home.

“The bottom line is that (Project 100%) forces only the poor to open their doors to county investigators,” said ACLU staff attorney Jonathan Markovitz. “It does this to people who are not suspected of any wrongdoing whatsoever.”

The ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties is challenging the program in a lawsuit filed this week.

It also turns out that the program, known as Project 100%, may not be a total success. The program found $305,000 worth of fraud last year, but cost roughly $2 million to operate.

Moreover, the program’s origins weren’t solely pegged to rooting out fraud. It appears to have started as a way to provide busy work for investigators in the district attorney’s office.

A 2014 report dug up minutes from a “DA Roundtable where investigators from the unit handling public-assistance fraud complained they weren’t getting enough fraud referrals,” reports VOSD contributor Kelly Davis. “According to the minutes, supervising District Attorney Investigator Frank Reid suggested that all applicants be subjected to home inspections.”

This isn’t the first time the program has been challenged in court. In 2006, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the county, agreeing that the searches serve an important governmental interest.

Old Cuts Fuel San Diego Unified’s New Bond Ask

In the years since the Great Recession, the San Diego Unified School District has already passed two multibillion-dollar bond measures to help pay for school repairs and upgrades.

And California’s budget has rebounded, as has funding coming from the state to local school districts, including San Diego Unified.

Yet, as district officials pitch a new $3.5 billion school bond measure, they are pointing to state cuts made during the Great Recession as a reason the bond is needed, Ashly McGlone reports.

A presentation given to the Board of Trustees Tuesday night said, “State budget cuts in education forced the District to defer repairs.”

District records show state funding to local schools has increased in recent years.

General fund revenues did drop dramatically in 2010 and reached a low of $1.03 billion in 2013. They remained below 2008 levels until 2015, when revenues rose above $1.2 billion. Since then, revenues have climbed even higher, topping $1.3 billion in 2018. They are expected to reach $1.33 billion in 2019, district financial records approved Tuesday show.

  • Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins helped the school district secure $250,000 in next year’s state budget to benefit homeless students. San Diego Unified had requested $750,000 from a federal grant program distributed through the state but was disqualified for providing an incomplete application. (inewsource)

Government Dismisses Another Illegal Border Crossing Case

Federal prosecutors on Wednesday dropped the case against Morena Elizabeth Mendoza-Romaldo, a citizen of El Salvador, who was accused of entering the U.S. illegally as part of a caravan of migrants traveling to the border together.

Mendoza-Romaldo’s case, along with a number of other illegal entry cases that have been dismissed in the last several weeks, demonstrates the strain the influx of “zero tolerance” cases is having on the court system, and the struggles prosecutors are having as they try to juggle them all.

In a separate case, a federal judge in San Diego ordered the Trump administration to reunite parents and children separated by the government, and to stop separating families. The Tuesday night ruling by District Judge Dana Sabraw, who is married to San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan, called the separations a “chaotic circumstance of the government’s own making.”

Dems Denounce Supreme Court’s Union Ruling

Across California, Democratic lawmakers denounced the U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down public-sector union requirements, and hinted at some sort of response. In recent months, anticipation that the conservative court would torpedo unions – a typically reliable power center for liberal politics – has prompted some policymakers and scholars to suggest ways to continue funding unions despite such a ruling.

“Without a doubt, this is a setback for hard-working families and a victory for those who seek to widen the income gap between the very rich and the rest of us,” Toni Atkins, the San Diego Democrat who leads the California Senate, said in a statement. “But the labor movement is no stranger to adversity, and I know this will only harden its resolve and fuel its ongoing efforts to create a strong American middle class.”

  • California labor leaders have been pushing for new state laws to blunt the impact of an unfavorable ruling. One of the bills under consideration earlier this year would have allowed unions to charge non-members for services such as arbitration or help during the disciplinary process. (CALMatters)

In Other News

  • A parent and vocal critic of the Poway Unified School District wants a seat on the school board. (Pomerado News)
  • Over in the North County Report, Voice contributor Ruarri Serpa explains Oceanside’s recent move to allow some pot deliveries.
  • A San Diego real estate official argues that the city is going to lose out on hundreds of millions of dollars of potential revenue if either proposal to redevelop the former Qualcomm Stadium site is approved by voters in November, writes the U-T’s Michael Smolens.
  • Since 2014, Coronado police have been putting a GPS tracker on a bicycle and waiting for it to get stolen. That bicycle has resulted in 83 arrests. (Union-Tribune)
  • It took 16 months, but a National City military advisory board finally has enough members to hold a meeting. The board is tasked with advising veterans and their families of available resources and making recommendations to the City Council. (Union-Tribune)
  • Imperial Beach is pressing ahead with a lawsuit against coal and oil companies in state court. Earlier this week, a federal judge tossed a similar lawsuit brought by San Francisco and other cities. (Union-Tribune)
  • Reminder: Don’t wear green to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. (Reddit)

The Morning Report was written and compiled by Ry Rivard and Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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