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San Diego Unified Trustee Kevin Beiser attended his first San Diego Unified school board meeting in April 2019 since four men accused him of harassment and assault. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Two years ago, when multiple men came forward to allege sexual misconduct against San Diego Unified School Board Trustee Kevin Beiser, it demonstrated the limited situations in which an elected official for the district could be removed from office.

The rest of the school board, the Democratic Party to which Beiser belongs, and most high-ranking elected officials in the county, all called on Beiser to resign. Beiser denied the allegations and refused.

He’s still on the board, but voters this month approved an amendment to the city charter creating an avenue to remove SDUSD Trustee that bypasses the lengthy and expensive recall process.

Now that it’s passed, though, it doesn’t look like anyone intends to use the measure to remove Beiser from the board.

All four of Beiser’s fellow board members would need to vote to remove Beiser to schedule a public recall vote to remove him from office, as Will Huntsberry covers in a new story. Two of those board members have already said they don’t intend to do so.

Trustee John Lee Evans, who vocally called for Beiser’s resignation at the time of the allegations, and bemoaned that the board had no further recourse once Beiser refused to do so, said it does not appear that the Beiser situation meets the conditions outlined as a cause for removal in the measure. Trustee Richard Barrera agreed.

Democratic Party Chair Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, however, said Beiser still needs to resign, and encouraged the board to pursue removal.

The measure allows officials to be removed if they’re convicted of a felony, or if they fail to fulfill their duties as an elected official. Removing Beiser would require the board to argue that the allegations have prevented Beiser from fully representing his constituents.

Democrats Support Montgomery Steppe for Council President

For the first time, the San Diego Democratic Party has weighed in on who it thinks should be San Diego’s Council president, voting Tuesday night to support Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe over fellow Democratic Councilwoman Jen Campbell.

The party’s central committee, a board of elected Democrats, voted for Montgomery Steppe over the objections of some officials, including the previous party chair, who said there was not sufficient notice the decision was happening, and that it isn’t the party’s place to weigh in on a decision that will made only by the nine elected Council members.

Montgomery Steppe won nearly 80 percent of the committee’s vote, though, following words of support from Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, Councilwoman Vivian Moreno and current Council President Georgette Gómez.

“We as a party, we have to dig into these issues around race, and we have to dig into these issues around equity, because we are still lacking of understanding,” Gómez said. “I think that this is the time. We have to take advantage of it.”

In an email to central committee members Tuesday afternoon, Campbell said forcing the five newly elected Council members to take sides on their first vote would imperil the Council’s ability to get “big things done.”

“Given that there are two Democrats in good standing vying for the role of Council president, I respectfully request that the San Diego County Democratic Party opt for a path of neutrality and allow the new Democratic mandate to make this decision.”

Weber, though, said it would be good for the party to get involved in these decisions for a change.

“We need to confront traditions and admit that they are designed to keep the status quo moving forward,” she said.

City of San Diego Says it Won’t Empty Its Pockets for $5 Billion Pipeline

The city of San Diego made clear to regional water managers that it wouldn’t be shelling out much for the $5 billion pipeline San Diego County Water Authority wants to build to the Colorado River. 

The pipeline wouldn’t bring any new water to the region. Instead the Water Authority believes it could eventually deliver river water at a cheaper rate than the L.A.-based Metropolitan Water Authority, which they have to pay now because L.A. controls most of the system that funnels river water to drought-stricken Southern California. 

But the city is in the midst of constructing another multibillion-dollar program to recycle wastewater into drinking water, called Pure Water. It’s supposed to provide a third of the city’s drinking water by 2035, which is a considerable chunk of the Water Authority’s ratepayer base.

The $5 billion pipeline “is not affordable in combination with the Pure Water Program,” the city wrote in a letter.  “We cannot provide certainty that the city has the financial capacity to provide its historic contribution of 39 percent on major infrastructure projects.” 

San Diego holds the most seats (and votes) on the 24-member agency board, which makes it the most powerful voice – if its votes are united. 

The Water Authority’s general manager, Sandra Kerl, wrote back to the city on Nov. 17, saying the pipeline might still make economic sense even with the Pure Water project.

“It’s precisely why we’re conducting this feasibility study,” Kerl wrote, referring to a pipeline economic feasibility study that Water Authority members will vote on Thursday. 

Report Details Inhumane Conditions at Otay Mesa

Conditions in the Otay Mesa Detention Center violate Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s own standards as well as federal law governing the treatment of people with disabilities, a new report from Disability Rights California finds.

The report, which was the result of a year-long investigation, found that people with disabilities have difficulty getting necessary accommodations. It also found that people detained there receive inadequate mental health treatment, medical care and are often denied needed dental care. Disability Rights California found the facility uses isolation and solitary confinement excessively, including to isolate people based on medical conditions unnecessarily.

People isolated based on medical conditions are often confined to their cells for nearly 24 hours a day, the report finds.

“Even jails in California now provide people with more out of cell time,” the report notes. “These isolation conditions are therefore worse than in jails even though people in Otay Mesa are not being held for committing a crime.”

Disability Rights California also found that LGBTQ people in custody at Otay Mesa are discriminated against, and an inadequate response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Otay has recently seen a second uptick in COVID cases after an initial outbreak in the facility in the spring that infected more than 200 people and left one man dead. 

San Diego Judge Temporarily Bars Immigration Arrests at Federal Courthouses

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw granted a temporary restraining order this week barring the Department of Homeland Security from making immigration arrests at the federal courthouses in San Diego and El Centro.

Border Patrol has been attending hearings for people who were charged with misdemeanors for entering the country illegally, but had posted bond and were not in custody prior to the hearing. Agents then have been arresting those people at the conclusion of their cases, regardless of the outcome, reports VOSD’s Maya Srikrishnan.

“To fulfill its constitutional duties, the court must be open and accessible in reality, and in perception. The specter of immigration sweeps at the courthouse cuts decidedly against both of these duties,” Sabraw wrote in his court order.

Sabraw’s order stemmed from a complaint filed by attorneys on behalf of several individuals with active illegal entry cases, who “have seen immigration officers waiting in court presumably to arrest him/her at prior court appearances if the case had concluded, and believes that he/she faces likely civil immigration arrest in court following conclusion of the criminal prosecution.”

The order will last for 14 days, but could be extended. Later in November, the plaintiffs’ attorneys and the government will meet to attempt to resolve the issue and if no resolution is made, the matter will be heard for a preliminary injunction, which could extend the ban until a final judgment is made in the case.

  •  Immigration advocates believe Sheriff Bill Gore is violating a state law that limits coordination between local law enforcement and federal immigration officials. (KPBS)

In Other News

A judge has ruled that the city must pay $1.5 million to a man who was pepper sprayed and thrown to the ground by detectives at an MTS trolley stop in 2016. The Union-Tribune reports that the detectives mistakenly believed the man was responsible for throwing a phone charger at them. Lawyers for the city tried to keep security camera footage out of the trial, arguing it did not “accurately portray what happened.”

The County Board of Supervisors approved a $2 million increase to its income replacement program for those affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The fund supports those who tested positive for the virus, allowing them to stay home. (City News Service)

Francis Parker, a private school in Linda Vista, has reversed its policy requiring teachers to teach in person following a week of pushback from students, parents and alumni. School leaders announced that staff would be allowed to work remotely through March. (KPBS)

The city is replacing this year’s December Nights event at Balboa Park with a “Taste of December Nights,” a drive-thru festival with food vendors.

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

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