More than $15 million Prop. 51 dollars went toward the cost of constructing Pacific Trails Middle School, even though it opened months before the bond was passed by state voters. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The Prop. 13 facing California voters in March isn’t about property taxes.

This Prop. 13 is a school bond that would send $15 billion to California public schools and higher education institutions for construction and renovation projects.

It’s a lot like previous school construction bonds, but different in a few distinct ways.

Some $9 billion would pay for public pre-K-12 school projects and $6 billion would pay for projects at public community colleges and universities. Backers tout the bond’s focus on prioritizing the needs of schools with urgent safety needs like mold, asbestos and lead in drinking water.

But despite messaging that centers on present and future school facility needs, as Ashly McGlone reports in a new story, nothing in Prop. 13 stops state funds from going to school projects that have already been completed. That means projects completed years ago could benefit from the new bond.

Prop. 13 would do away with the state’s first-come, first-serve school facility funding application process that has been criticized for favoring larger, wealthier districts.

“In its place would be a system that earmarks some money for small districts and favors districts with less capacity to raise local money that serve more vulnerable youth, like foster children, English-learners and those from low-income families, by giving them more state money,” reports McGlone.

Prop. 13 got a high-profile shoutout Wednesday: Gov. Gavin Newsom touted the measure in his State of the State speech on Wednesday, and said, “If the voters approve it, we may soon see more school buildings newly free of lead and toxic mold.”

The lion’s share of Newsom’s speech, however, was devoted to combating homelessness.

Every day, the California Dream is dimmed by the wrenching reality of families, children and seniors living unfed on a concrete bed,” Newsom said.

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins praised Newsom’s devotion to the issue but was wary of doling out money on homelessness solutions in a way that would bypass local governments

“Coming out of local government, I believe we need to respect local control, but with that control must also come responsibility from local officials to actually provide services and build housing,” she said in a statement. “And, at every level of government, we need to provide more of the certainty that will enable more affordable housing units to be built.”

Auditor Will Probe Ash Street Debacle

City auditors will dig into the debacle surrounding the city’s purchase of the former Sempra Energy headquarters downtown.

The city’s Audit Committee voted unanimously on Wednesday to allow the city auditor’s office to proceed with an audit in the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Interim City Auditor Kyle Elser asked the committee if it would like auditors to begin  immediately, which he said would interfere with efforts to assess progress on the city’s Climate Action Plan.

The committee decided instead to have the auditor’s office aim to deliver its review next year.

The committee’s vote followed a formal request from City Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry, who is running for mayor and has criticized the city’s lease for exempting the sellers from liability on hazardous matters. 

City staff had moved into the building at 101 Ash St. in December, only to move out again weeks later after county air pollution documented unsafe levels of asbestos. The rushed move was the latest setback for the city after years of scrutiny over the real estate deal and the extensive renovations that delayed city workers’ move into the building. Late last week, a top city manager who played a key role in coordinating the city’s Ash Street moves resigned.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office has separately initiated what it has described as a comprehensive forensic analysis of the Ash Street fiasco. On Wednesday, the mayor’s Deputy Chief of Staff Almis Udrys said officials have been consulting the city attorney’s office and plan to bring the forensic analysis to the audit committee for review — and perhaps additional analysis — after it’s completed. 

Meanwhile …

The city sent workers home Wednesday from the current home to Development Services — the same department that was evacuated from 101 Ash St. last month.

DSD staffers got an email Wednesday afternoon announcing the city had closed the City Operations Building at 1222 First Ave. because of repairs on the building’s water piping system.

“Because areas above the ceiling tiles will be accessed, before its reopening the City will conduct air quality testing out of an abundance of caution to confirm the repairs did not cause the release of harmful levels of any hazardous materials,” the email from DSD management to staff read.

More Audit News …

A city audit released last week urges the city to retool its approach to homeless outreach and sweeps of homeless camps that have escalated in recent years. The city’s audit committee discussed the findings Wednesday, reiterating the need for a region-wide approach for more outreach efforts.

“The homeless crisis is a region-wide problem and the County needs to take the lead in outreach efforts,” said Councilman Scott Sherman, chair of the committee. “The city is responsible for public safety; the county oversees health and human services and must invest accordingly.”

The city auditor made 12 recommendations, including that the city bolster homeless outreach efforts not helmed by police officers and take more strategic steps to implement its new homelessness plan. Management agreed to seven recommendations and partially agreed to five.

Keely Halsey, chief of homelessness strategies and housing liaison for the city, responded to the audit and said the report incorporates recommendations from the city’s homelessness plan and reinforces the work the city is doing to implement it. She said the city also agreed to the underlying objective of the recommendations.

In regard to some of the recommendations, Halsey said the city is pursuing “broader reforms.”

“Our analysis shows that merely adding workers will not be effective unless they are better coordinated, better trained, and armed with appropriate resources,” she said.

County Supes to Focus on Youth in 2020

For two long-sitting San Diego County supervisors, 2020 marks the end of an era. In his Wednesday State of the County address, board Chairman Greg Cox — who was elected to the board in 1995 — promised to focus on setting the stage for future leaders in his final year in office.

“Yes, it is time to pass the torch to a new generation, but make no mistake about it, this old cowboy still has some fight in him,” said Cox.

Longtime Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who chaired the board last year, is also termed out in 2020.

Cox said he plans to unveil a new initiative to link former foster and other homeless youth with housing and other services and a pilot program in South Bay to improve academic outcomes among foster youth. He’s also preparing to roll out a project to encourage young San Diegans to get more involved on county boards and commissions.

Cox announced that he will also partner with Supervisor Nathan Fletcher and the city of San Diego on a $25 million behavioral health impact fund to support capital investments in mental health and substance abuse programs using former redevelopment funds, and with Supervisor Jim Desmond to find ways to ease red tape for renewable energy projects. He’s also teaming with Supervisor Kristin Gaspar on a new initiative to eliminate debt for families whose children were on criminal probation.

Safe Parking Lot Proposed for Carlsbad

Carlsbad Councilwoman Cori Schumacher is urging the city to declare a shelter emergency to better serve homeless individuals and families in the city. In a new VOSD op-ed, Schumacher said Carlsbad has only 59 shelter beds restricted to single men to serve a population of approximately 161 diverse individuals experiencing homelessness. 

“By declaring a shelter emergency, Carlsbad will be able to rapidly move forward with two important items: increasing the number of shelter beds and implementing a safe parking program,” she wrote.

The proposal for another safe parking program in North County caught our attention. A recently opened safe parking lot in Encinitas garnered fierce opposition from the community. 

Kayla Jimenez caught up with Schumacher for the latest North County Report to discuss her proposal, and whether she anticipates similar tension from her constituents.

In Other News

  • City leaders are responding to an internal memo laying out cost overruns and mismanagement with the city’s smart street light program. (NBC 7)
  • San Diego is starting to enforce its ban on short-term rentals of newly built granny flats. (inewsource)
  • Ric Grenell, once a spokesman for former San Diego Mayor Susan Golding and social media troll for Carl DeMaio’s 2014 congressional campaign before becoming President Donald Trump’s ambassador to Germany, has now been tapped as acting director of national intelligence, the New York Times reports. He joins Peter Navarro, who lost five elections in San Diego, as one-time San Diego politicos who’ve found prominent roles in the Trump administration. (One of Navarro’s unsuccessful races was against Golding, too).

The Morning Report was written by Megan Wood, Andrew Keatts and Lisa Halverstadt, and edited by Sara Libby.

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