Mara Elliott
City Attorney Mara Elliott / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Taking public agencies that don’t comply with the California Public Records Act to court – the only way to enforce the law – might get much harder under a bill by Sen. Ben Hueso and sponsored by the San Diego city attorney’s office.

If an agency ignores the request, a member of the public would have to show “knowingly, willfully, and without substantial justification failed to respond” – a new, far higher standard that attorneys told us would be “nearly impossible” to meet.

Hueso’s office told us the intent of the bill is to “make the public records request process efficient and streamlined for all parties involved,” but wouldn’t answer specific questions about the measure.

The city attorney’s office declined to answer questions about what drove the bill.

Voice of San Diego has gone to court or threatened to go to court to secure records that public agencies, including some in Hueso’s district, declined to otherwise provide in accordance with the law.

AG Flags Concerns With California Immigration Detention Centers

Although the bed capacity for ICE detainees housed in the Otay Mesa Detention Center is 896, the average daily population was 1,028, according to a new report on immigration detention facilities in California released by the California attorney general.

The average amount of time detainees spent in Otay was 41 days, though one detainee stayed for 1,055 days. More than 42 percent of the detainees are from Mexico.

The attorney general’s office said it found concerning restrictions on liberty at the various facilities, including detainees’ confinement, facilities’ use of force and search policies and harsh disciplinary practices. The report also found that while the vast number of detainees do not speak English, there is a lack of bilingual staff and inadequate access to alternative language services, which can lead to other issues. Voice of San Diego found a similar issue with U.S. Marshal facilities housing immigrants, where two Punjabi speakers from India didn’t eat for days because they couldn’t communicate to staff that they were vegetarian.

The report outlines issues in medical and mental health care, which have been well documented by media and nonprofits at Otay Mesa. The Union-Tribune has reported that one detainee who attempted suicide was put in solitary confinement for three months and spoke with several detainees about their concerns over
medical care
in the facility.

The AG’s office also described obstacles in detainees being able to contact family and other support systems and barriers to adequate legal

Meanwhile, Axios reports on thousands of complaints of sexual abuse in shelters for migrant youth. One incident in 2016 took place in the Southwest Key facility in Lemon Grove, where a former staffer had kissed a minor when working at the care provider. The complaint was not investigated because the incident did not happen in the shelter, according to the documents.

The California State Auditor’s office also took a look at city and county contracts with federal immigration officials. Most of the report dealt with counties and cities outside of San Diego, but it did include some tidbits about the Otay Mesa Detention Center, like information about its two deaths in custody in the past few years.

Gover-Maienschein Set for a Rematch, With a Twist

Sunday Gover, who challenged then-Republican Assemblyman Brian Maienschein in 2018 and came only about 600 votes shy of upsetting the incumbent, has filed to run against him again in 2020.

This time, of course, there will be a twist: Maienschein is now a Democrat.

The Democratic Party went in hard for Gover (with a few notable exceptions, like Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez and Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins), so it will be interesting to watch how the party treats both candidates.

It’s also likely one or more Republicans could jump in as well.

So. Much. Dance.

Erica Buechner and her partners at Art Produce, a nonprofit in North Park, are the recipients of a 2018 grant given to small groups of artists willing to engage with communities in new and creative ways.

In this week’s Culture Report, Voice contributor Julia Dixon Evans writes about how Buechner is playing with dance and text by combining narrative concepts and emotions. For years, she’s used creative writing instruction and resilience training to empower youth dancers how to tell their stories and choreograph them into expressive movements.

Speaking of dance (!) Ephrat Asherie Dance is performing “Odeon,” which pledges to “bring together the extended family of street and club dances” on Thursday, and the beloved Beyond Babel show is back with a second season.

In Other News

  • A San Diego VA internal report shows that liver samples were taken from sick veterans without their permission for a study that provided no benefit to the patients. Congress plans to hold a hearing on the findings this spring. (inewsource)
  • National City has been awarded $15.5 million in state, federal and regional grants to improve roads and bicycle and pedestrian paths. Officials say it’s the largest pot of grant money per capita in San Diego County, according to officials. (Union-Tribune)
  • The military and a host of other employers don’t test employees for fentanyl. NBC San Diego found a Camp Pendleton Marine bought the drug “because [he] assumed he could beat the random drug screenings required of all service members.” He overdosed and died.

The Morning Report was written by Sara Libby and Jesse Marx.

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