A drone sits idle at the rooftop of the Chula Vista Police headquarters. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Chula Vista has encountered pushback over the last year for the use of drones and license plate readers. But those devices, which assist police officers, are pieces of a bigger project that has flown under the radar. 

The city is partnering with a corporation and to create a real-time crime center that will link its various databases and these surveillance technologies into a single interface.

In a new story, Jesse Marx explains what the city has planned for its police department long term and why privacy advocates are alarmed. They contend that real-time crime centers — by no means unique to Chula Vista — are pushing police into unprecedented territory by stockpiling data points about people who haven’t been accused of a crime.

Once you start, you can’t stop. Every added piece creates need for more software and devices. 

Officials say they need every tool available as violent crime rises and a growing population puts increased pressure on police resources. 

A group of advocates are now lobbying the City Council to consider a surveillance ordinance, similar to the one in the works in San Diego. In response, Chula Vista announced last week it was working on a citywide privacy policy, and Councilman Steve Padilla said he intends to bring forth a proposal for a new commission tasked with ensuring that officials are using technology in a transparent, legally compliant way.

Read the full story here.

Dems Think Bitchin’ Sauce Guy Was Not Very Bitchin’

Ryan Smith at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Aug. 31, 2021.Twitter was aflutter over a freedom-loving rant at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. 

Ryan Smith, who helped cook up the idea for San Diego delicacy Bitchin’ Sauce, was among the many who commented against a measure by the county supervisors to declare COVID-19 misinformation a public health crisis

“You’re attacking the free speech,” said Smith. “It ends when we say it ends. And it ends now. And you will be removed from office for crossing the line on the constitution and our rights. As business owners, as parents we will not stand for what you’re trying to shove down our throats.”

“Guess I’m done buying Bitchin’ Sauce,” tweeted Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who is married to County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher. 

Hold up, assemblywoman. Bitchin Sauce has a complicated founding story, which we happen to have told.

Continue reading …

COVID-19 Spike Maybe Rounding Off a Bit?

Even with whatever they are worried is being shoved down their throats, there are still no restrictions or lockdowns or countywide mask mandates. The only requirements for masks are in schools, public facilities and transit.

But other, less performative, health care advocates have been pushing for a wider mask mandates as doctors and nurses deal with a major influx of patients battling the virus. On July 1, there were 85 patients fighting COVID-19 in hospitals. Tuesday, there were 685. The vast majority of those suffering are unvaccinated.

That hospitalizations number though, has plateaued a bit. And the cases count also seems to show signs of a promising slowdown.

If we do see cases and hospitalizations start to go down, we would be part of a bigger trend. The New York Times Wednesday published a story about “Covid’s mysterious two-month cycle.”

“In one country after another, the number of new cases has often surged for roughly two months before starting to fall. The Delta variant, despite its intense contagiousness, has followed this pattern.”

City Caves, Pays Rent on Civic Center

Facing the prospect of an eviction trial last week, the city cut a deal with lenders behind the city’s Civic Center Plaza lease to pay for its use of the downtown high-rise.

The Union-Tribune reported that the city made two $313,000 payments — the equivalent of its July and August rent payments — last Monday, the same day it appeared before a Superior Court judge who had been set to preside over the eviction case.

Judge Ronald F. Frazier decided last week that the eviction case should instead be heard by Judge Timothy Taylor, who was assigned to the city’s Civic Center Plaza conflict-of-interest case that inspired the city to stop making rent payments. The decision effectively postponed the eviction case.

Hilary Nemchik, a spokeswoman for City Attorney Mara Elliott, wrote in a statement that the agreement will allow the city to pay for its use of the office building that houses more than a dozen city departments but will not halt its separate cases that the city’s Civic Center Plaza and 101 Ash St. leases were “infected” by landlord Cisterra Development’s $9.4 million in payments to former city real estate adviser Jason Hughes. The city has argued those payouts voided the two leases and has sought to recoup more than $44 million.

“Regardless of lease status, the city recognizes it cannot continue to occupy the (Civic Center Plaza) building free of cost in perpetuity,” Nemchik wrote. “While the city cannot make payments on an illegal lease, it can reach a separate agreement.”

A representative for lenders who provided upfront cash for the Civic Center Plaza lease and now receive rent payments in exchange for their investment last week declined to comment on the agreement with the city. The lenders had previously argued that state law protects them from being punished for an alleged conflict of interest they didn’t know about.

In Other News

  • Kayla Jimenez, who investigated misconduct in schools, bids farewell in her last North County Report. “Many North County cities are news deserts, and don’t get the same kind of coverage as the city of San Diego does,” she writes. “I encourage you all to push for quality journalism in your communities.”
  • California schools are facing a severe shortage of substitute teachers. As a result, Sweetwater Union High School District and others are increasing pay and looking at ways to lower barriers. (CalMatters)  
  • Immigrant advocates say some new Afghan refugees who are cramped into apartments are at risk of eviction. (10 News) 
  • The county approved a new policy to construct affordable homes through a voucher program. (City News Service) 
  • On the heels of a study on increased minor COVID-19 infections among its vaccinated workforce — though continued strong protection against severe cases — UC San Diego wants its front-line workers to get boosters, but the state has refused to allow it for now, the Union-Tribune reports.

This Morning Report was written by Will Huntsberry, Lisa Halverstadt and Jesse Marx and edited by Andrew Keatts and Megan Wood.

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