Streetlight cameras in downtown San Diego / Photo by Megan Wood

San Diego Police accessed footage captured by the city’s so-called smart streetlights in order to gather evidence against Black Lives Matter protesters who they believed had vandalized property or thrown objects, VOSD’s Jesse Marx reports in a new story.

“Records obtained by VOSD show that the San Diego Police Department was primarily looking into incidents of vandalism, looting and destruction to property, as well as objects being thrown at passing vehicles or police. Most of the investigations connected to civil demonstrations downtown are still pending,” Marx reports.

The streetlights were sold to the City Council as a tool to gather data that could help solve transit and mobility problems. Instead, they’ve become mostly a tool for police.

Once Marx revealed that police had access to the cameras, a fact that wasn’t even known to some City Council members, SDPD officials said they’d limit their use of the technology to “the most serious crimes in San Diego.” But what constitutes “the most serious crimes” has continued to expand.

As far as the benefits from the program the city initially touted, “more than three years into San Diego’s $30 million investment, the project is failing to live up to its hype and members of the public trying to work with the data are encountering problems that throw the project’s early promotional claims into question,” Marx reported earlier this year.

Police released body cam footage of weekend shooting: After officers shot a man downtown Saturday evening, the San Diego Police Department released footage from body-worn cameras and from one in a nearby streetlight. The U-T described the footage here.

Breweries, Wineries Ordered to Close

After a week of disturbing trends in new COVID-19 cases, San Diego County officials are dialing back on reopening. 

Bars that don’t have a license to serve food (that means they can’t just start selling potato chips to skirt the rule) will be forced to close starting Tuesday at midnight. Also, restaurants will only be allowed to serve patrons who are eating. In other words, no hanging out just for drinks. 

County officials also took the opportunity to reinforce a standing order at a press conference on Monday: People should not hold gatherings with those outside their family unit. That means no backyard barbecues or parties on Fourth of July. 

In recent weeks, several stats related to COVID-19 have started to creep up. Two triggers – previously set up by county officials to help determine when the region should go back into lockdown – were tripped. Officials declined to act initially. But they said they have seen increased outbreaks at bars and restaurants and so decided to take a targeted approach to closures. 

They also said so far there have been no outbreaks related to recent racial justice protests. 

The Latest Power Struggles for SDG&E and Sempra

If you care about climate change, “you should care about who keeps your lights on and with what,” VOSD’s MacKenzie Elmer notes in this week’s Environment Report.

To that end, Elmer has updates on the city’s attempt to renegotiate its franchise fee agreement, a deal it currently has with SDG&E to deliver power to San Diegans. 

SDG&E’s parent company Sempra, meanwhile, is at risk of having its credit downgraded and is looking to shift away from California’s heavily regulated energy market and do more business in, you guessed it, Texas.

(Disclosure: Mitch Mitchell, SDG&E’s vice president of state governmental affairs and external affairs, sits on Voice of San Diego’s board of directors.)

Politics: Kersey Joins Anti-Trump Movement

Councilman Mark Kersey / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

San Diego City Councilman Mark Kersey endorsed the efforts of the Lincoln Project, a movement of Republican consultants and political professionals organizing against President Trump’s re-election. Kersey left the Republican Party last year. While he implied regularly he didn’t have high regard for the president, this was the most clear statement he’s made about his direct opposition to Trump’s re-election.

More Politics, Part 1: In this week’s Politics Report, Scott Lewis reviewed how the two Republicans vying for the East County, District 2 seat on the Board of Supervisors are starting to court more liberal people. The city of San Diego has a small slice of the district and Democratic candidate Kenya Taylor got 27 percent of the vote.

More Politics, Part 2: Lewis also talked about Supervisor Jim Desmond’s increasingly passionate advocacy for opening up businesses even while the cases of COVID-19 increase rapidly. But two other supervisors tangled about it too. Supervisor Nathan Fletcher Twitter-dunked on colleague Kristin Gaspar, who was celebrating the supervisors’ 4-1 (with Fletcher opposed) vote to ask the governor to allow more openings of youth sports.

Fletcher pointed to her statement.

“At the same time we see spiking of #COVID19 cases, outbreaks and hospitalizations in SD this one 👇🏼 👇🏼👇🏼 is demanding expedited re-openings including multiple new indoor, high exposure settings,” he wrote.

Gaspar sent out a press release with a response saying Fletcher falsely implied that the Gaspar and other supervisors were overriding the public health officer.

“Not once have we stepped ahead of the Public Health Officer or Governor in reopening a business sector. Not once have we ignored our agreed upon health metrics that guide our response,” Gaspar wrote.

Two Reactions to the State Budget for Education

In an op-ed an educator who works at the High Tech High Graduate School of Education warns that the new state budget’s new formula for school funding could devastate schools across California. The new arrangement will protect schools from enrollment declines by tying their funding to last year’s average daily attendance. 

Schools are normally funded by how many students attend, on average, every day.

“If a school has enrolled more students this year than last year, not a single one of those students brings any funding with them,” teacher Alec Patton wrote.

In the other hand: San Diego Unified School District joined several other school districts in the state to praise the budget and implore the federal government to “fully fund the 2020-21 school year.”

“In past economic downturns, declining state budgets have been balanced on the backs of our students. This Governor and Legislature have chosen to go a different way,” wrote the superintendents of five of the largest school districts in the state.

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Sara Libby and Will Huntsberry, and edited by Scott Lewis.

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