Kelvin Barrios, candidate for San Diego City Council, appears at Golden Hall on election night. / Photo by Megan Wood

Yet another part of City Council candidate Kelvin Barrios’ professional life is coming under scrutiny for potential city ethics violations.

When Barrios started with Laborers Local Union 89 in January 2019, he was still working for and being paid by City Council President Georgette Gómez’s office for a one-week period, although he didn’t disclose the overlap until earlier this month in an amended economic interest disclosure form after Voice of San Diego began asking him questions. The admission opened Barrios up to a potential violation of the city ethics ordinance, which prohibits officials from being paid by an outside entity while also on the city clock.

VOSD’s Andrew Keatts and Jesse Marx have uncovered another potential violation of the city’s ethics rules.

Keatts and Marx obtained emails between Barrios and Val Macedo, the leader of Laborers 89, over the city’s Pure Water deal, which Barrios was working on for Gómez’s office at the time.

Barrios’ decision in late 2018 to go work for Laborers 89 shortly after his work on Pure Water in Gómez’s office puts him at risk of violating another city ethics law, which prevents city officials from working on issues with potential future employers, Keatts and Marx report.

Advocates Urge Police to Return Protesters’ Cell Phones

San Diego county jails have refused to return phones to some individuals who were arrested at a protest downtown nearly a month ago, according to a letter sent to law enforcement by the ACLU, Community Advocates for Just and Moral Governance and the Singleton Law Firm.

It appears this is not the result of isolated decisions by individual officers,” the attorneys wrote in the letter. “Instead, jails have apparently adopted either a written or de-facto policy of seizing protesters’ cell phones and refusing to return them upon release, either on their own or at the request of the District Attorney’s office or San Diego Police Department.”

Sheriff’s deputies are also failing to log the seizures, which has made it “difficult if not impossible” to retrieve them.

“We further understand San Diego Police Department officers have been taking phones from arrestees before they are booked in at the jail and while they are being detained in patrol cars, entering no record of the seizures,” the letter reads. “If such a policy or practice exists, it violates protestors’ Fourth Amendment and due process rights, and it should be immediately repealed and repudiated.”

MTS Exploring More Changes

Metropolitan Transit System is moving forward with an outside review of its enforcement strategy and changes to the process for people with disabilities to qualify for reduced fares in the wake of Voice of San Diego investigations documenting the agency’s punitive approach.

At a Thursday committee hearing, MTS CEO Sharon Cooney said the agency is revising its application for riders with disabilities in response to an August VOSD story laying out long-standing complaints from doctors, service providers and advocates who found the form and process confounding.

Cooney said MTS expects to soon debut an updated, simplified form that more medical providers are eligible to complete. She said the agency plans to change a particularly confusing portion of the form requiring doctors to explain what “special facilities, planning or design” their patients need to use transit.

Cooney also said that contractors from the Washington D.C.-based American Public Transportation Association are set to begin their review of MTS’s enforcement policies and practices next month. The review will include the agency’s fare enforcement as well as its policies regarding use of force and retention of body camera footage. MTS’s public security committee on Thursday appointed a steering committee that includes advocates, academics and community leaders who are expected to assist with the outside review.

Some Families Have Far Worse Problems Than Schools Being Closed

The pandemic has created an unprecedented education crisis, even for the most affluent, white families. 

“But these parents who seem to have had the loudest voice are also the lucky ones,” writes VOSD’s Will Huntsberry in this week’s Learning Curve. “Most haven’t lost income, much less housing. They certainly haven’t gone hungry. They’re more likely to have help from a nanny or the luxury to choose not to work.”

Even the few schools that have re-opened have mainly been an option for families that are white and wealthier.

Huntsberry looks at a new survey of some of Los Angeles Unified’s most vulnerable families that sheds light on how those families that were struggling before the pandemic are now faring.

Researchers from the University of Southern California polled more than 1,100 families at 19 of Los Angeles Unified’s most under-resourced, disadvantaged schools. The schools are 89 percent Latino and 9 percent black. Most live near or below the poverty line.

More than 70 percent of the families have lost some of their income and have experienced food insecurity. More than 25 percent have experienced health challenges and housing insecurity. 

San Diego Unified and Los Angeles Unified often face similar issues, Huntsberry writes, so we should assume that many families in San Diego Unified are also just barely making it. 

UCSD Lawsuits Update

  • A settlement has been reached in a gender and age discrimination lawsuit brought against UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla and the University of California Board of Regents by former UCSD Associate Vice Chancellor Jean E. Ford, who alleged Khosla was abusive toward her and other female employees, interfered with her work and retaliated against her when she voiced her concerns. (City News Service)
  • The University of California sued former UC San Diego vice chairman Dr. Kevin Murphy, alleging fraud, concealment and misappropriation of a $10 million research gift meant to study an experimental brain treatment. Murphy has also sued the UC system, alleging whistleblower retaliation. (inewsource)

In Other News

  • Democrats are hoping to flip the Republican majority that’s held the San Diego County Board of Supervisors for more than 30 years. District 3 will be the wild card, with the incumbent Republican candidate facing off against a Democrat and determining the political leaning of the board. (NBC7)
  • The San Diego County Taxpayers Association endorsed Measure A, a proposed $900 million bond measure that would raise property taxes to build apartments for low-income people. Meanwhile, the conservative group Reform California is raising money to defeat the measure, saying it would burden middle-class homeowners. (Union-Tribune)

The Morning Report was written by Maya Srikrishnan and Lisa Halverstadt, and edited by Sara Libby.

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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