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A homeless woman walks down 17th Street in downtown San Diego. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Take a cursory look at the latest point-in-time count numbers released Monday and you might conclude that San Diego made a modest improvement in shrinking its homeless population over last year.

But because of changes to how the count was conducted this year, officials say it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. Meanwhile, they also provided a separate stat unrelated to the annual census of the homeless population that shows the region could actually have three times as many homeless residents as the count shows. Lisa Halverstadt provides a breakdown of the new methodology and why the federal government urged San Diego leaders to change the way they count residents in tents or vehicles.

One group that is included in the count is the 62 people who were arrested by San Diego Police for violations associated with homelessness in the immediate run-up to this year’s count. We were the first to report on the surge in police activity in the days leading up to the count, and the officials who lead the count told us they worried the arrests would impact the final number. Officials had to take unusual steps and consult with the federal government in order to show the 62 people should be factored into the final number.

Another San Diego Pol Leaves the Republican Party

The San Diego Republican Party has lost another seat in local government.

This time around, it’s because San Diego Councilman Mark Kersey has decided to leave the party to become an independent. He announced his decision on Twitter Monday, decrying “the polarized prism of partisan politics” and saying he’d wrestled with the decision for some time.

Earlier this year, Assemblyman Brian Maienschein became a Democrat just a few months after he was re-elected as a Republican. County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher was elected last year as a Democrat, eight years after he was elected to the Assembly as a Republican and six years after he ran for mayor as an independent.

Kersey’s switch shouldn’t change much on the Council, where Democrats already had a veto-proof 6-3 majority. But his political shift had become clearer recently, after a radio talk show host earlier this month threatened him over a vote on a union-friendly construction contract. Kersey ultimately ignored the threat and sided with construction unions. In 2012, when he was first running for office, Kersey supported a citywide measure restricting those union-friendly deals.

Kersey had been seen as one of the few potential Republicans who might run for mayor in 2020. Former police chief Shelley Zimmerman, also an independent, considered a run but opted against it. Republican Councilman Chris Cate also bowed out.

Kersey’s decision won’t necessarily disqualify him from mayoral consideration. Zimmerman was expected to get conservative and pro-business financial support if she ran as an independent. But one thing Fletcher’s run well-funded 2012 run showed was just how hard it is to build a movement without the backing and structure of a political party.

Community Grapples With Security, White Supremacists Post-Poway Shooting

Brooke Binkowski writes in the Washington Post that casting John Earnest, the 19-year-old arrested in the attack on Chabad of Poway, as a lone wolf ignores the region’s ties to white supremacist groups, and prevents us from taking steps to combat the spread of hatred.

“Today, California has more than 80 known hate groups, more than any other state, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s ‘Hate Map,’” Binkowski writes. “At least eight of these are active in San Diego, mostly white nationalist or anti-immigrant — including many that have grown dramatically amid the racially charged comments and corrosive disinformation that is a hallmark of the Trump administration.

Earnest’s family sent out a statement through a San Diego law firm Monday. It said in part: “Our son’s actions were informed by people we do not know, and ideas we do not hold. Like our other five children, he was raised in a family, a faith, and a community that all rejected hate and taught that love must be the motive for everything we do. How our son was attracted to such darkness is a terrifying mystery to us, though we are confident that law enforcement will uncover many details of the path that he took to this evil and despicable act.”

The rabbi of Chabad of Poway, Yisroel Goldstein, wrote in a New York Times op-ed that “I do not know why God spared my life. I do not know why I had to witness scenes of a pogrom in San Diego County like the ones my grandparents experienced in Poland.”

The funeral for Lori Gilbert-Kaye, who was killed in the shooting, was held at the synagogue Monday.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said his May budget revision will include $15 million to provide security at synagogues and mosques. The California Senate adjourned in Gilbert-Kaye’s honor Monday.

Influencers at the Border

There’s been a surge of celebrities and social media influencers visiting the Tijuana-San Diego region over the last year, and local advocacy groups say they’re happy to have them.

In the latest Border Report, VOSD’s Maya Srikrishnan says this new phenomenon shows just how intensely the border has come to dominate the national spotlight.

“They are able to bring their audience along in a way we can’t, that the press can’t, that politicians can’t. That’s huge at keeping this at the forefront of people’s attention,” said Samuel Garrett-Pate, the communications director at Equality California.

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Sara Libby and Megan Wood.

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