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San Diego County is ramping up efforts to crack down on workplace abuses like wage theft, tasks that previously fell to advocacy groups and unions to enforce, rather than law enforcement.

New disclosure requirements on subcontractors, and the potential creation of a new office to enforce labor standards, are seen as an attempt to bridge the gap between prosecutors and workers who don’t come forward for fear of being fired – or even deported.

In a new story, Jesse Marx and Maya Srikrishnan break down the new efforts, which would nonetheless apply only to projects in the county’s unincorporated areas, even as more development occurs in cities that have fewer protections.

Workers who spoke to Marx and Srikrishnan outlined exploitation they’ve experienced as construction workers, abuses that disproportionately impact immigrant workers who were identified last year as essential workers during the pandemic.

Council Member Demands Answers on Lincoln High

Lincoln High is a cornerstone in San Diego’s Black community, but has been haunted by instability in leadership for more than a decade – despite countless pledges by local leaders to get the school the resources it needs.

On Wednesday, Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe wrote an open letter to school board members chiding them for failing to provide stability at the school and demanding answers about ongoing problems, based on some of Voice of San Diego’s most recent reporting. 

The school’s director was quietly reassigned in recent months, as VOSD first revealed, and two years prior to that, the entire leadership team was sacked. 

Even before the director, Jennifer Roberson, was reassigned, it was unclear to many employees at Lincoln who was running the school. Many said Roberson was in charge of the school, while district officials maintain that Stephanie Brown, whose title is principal, was in charge. 

Montgomery Steppe wanted to know why Roberson was removed without any warning or notice to employees, students and parents. 

Montgomery Steppe also wanted to know why school leaders did not spend funds the way it was directed to by the School Site Council, an official body composed of parents, students and staff members. 

In that case, School Site Council members voted to spend more than $200,000 on math tutoring and text books. But VOSD revealed the money was never spent.

Montgomery Steppe contended that officials broke the law in that instance and asked if anyone would be held accountable. 

She also asked several questions about attendance and academic outcomes at Lincoln. 

District officials do “not understand the historical, political, cultural and socio-economic context of the school to lead the school and community effectively,” she wrote.  

News Roundup

  • In a new op-ed, three UC San Diego public health professors Rebecca Fielding-Miller, Richard Garfein and Nancy Binkin, argue that new mask guidelines fail to fully account for how COVID-19 is transmitted and that the honor system associated with them could disproportionately affect vulnerable populations – and lead to a surge in cases.
  • The La Jolla Light reports that the new board of the La Jolla Tennis Club is facing criticism for its termination of contracts with three instructors, including a Black man and an Asian American woman.
  • NBC 7 revealed that some Scripps Health workers are again able to access some internal systems weeks after a cyberattack forced one of San Diego’s largest health systems offline.
  • Advocates on both sides of the border are calling on Customs and Border Protection to re-open Friendship Park, the park within Border Field State Park that has been closed since the pandemic hit. The state park is now open, but Friendship Park within it remains closed. (KPBS)
  • The San Diego Humane Society is ramping up its policy of releasing cats back onto the region’s streets, a policy opposed by animal rights activists who see it as abandoning the animals. (KPBS)
  • A developer is scheduled to build 1,800 homes in Mira Mesa by 2026, but the first 200 homes could come available this year, and there’s already a waiting list of some 1,400 people to buy them. (Union-Tribune)
  • San Ysidro High on Wednesday hosted an all-day vaccination effort for students, families and staff. Sweetwater Unified School District says it’ll be holding similar operations at Southwest High, Sweetwater High and Hilltop High Thursday.
  • San Diego County will soon have an Office of Environmental and Climate Justice, City News Service reports.
  • City News Service also revealed that the San Diego Community College District will require vaccinations for students and staff working and attending classes at its campuses.
  • A former Sycuan casino employee said he was fired for breaking a confidentiality contract and going above his bosses to report a large, unmaskless frat party to a university. (CBS 8)
  • Stephen Lew, a top aide to former Mayor Jerry Sanders, died suddenly last weekend. Lew was very involved in local public affairs and there was an outpouring of shock and mourning. A friend, Elvin Lai, posted a family statement publicly Tuesday. “While the family awaits final medical reports, we believe he passed naturally and peacefully.”

Clarification: Wednesday’s Morning Report quoted an NBC 7 story about El Cajon City Council members debating whether it’s their responsibility to urge the public to get vaccinated. The NBC story said the “overall” vaccination rate in East County is nearly 13 percent. That’s not correct. That 13 percent is the percentage of vaccinations in the county that have been given to people who live in East County. Across the county, 64 percent of the people eligible for the vaccine have received at least one dose

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

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