Margarito Martinez Esquivel Vigil
Margarito Martinez Esquivel Vigil

In the aftermath of the killings of two Tijuana journalists in a month, advocates are scrutinizing the system meant to protect them. 

Official protection programs are offered by the state or federal governments and are tailored to the needs of journalists or human rights advocates under threat. They could include round-the-clock protection or special emergency telephone numbers often called “panic buttons.” 

But after both Margarito Martínez and Lourdes Maldonado sought safety through the government system and died anyway, advocates are now speaking out about meaningful and necessary changes, as Sandra Dibble writes in a new story.

“The protection they give you is bureaucratic, you’re on a list of threatened journalists, they don’t immediately send someone to protect you,” said Odilón García, a Tijuana journalist who was previously enrolled in Baja California’s special protection program for journalists and human rights defenders. 

“It’s more than clear that the systems to protect journalists have not functioned,” said Sonia de Anda, a Tijuana journalist who leads a journalists’ collective called #YoSíSoyPeriodista, which means #IAMaJournalist.

Click here to read Dibble’s full story on the troubled programs.

Most Homeless Shelters Still Not Welcoming Newcomers

Nearly all city shelters remain unable to take in homeless San Diegans amid a continuing spike in coronavirus cases.

The Housing Commission reported 30 positive test results on Friday following the latest round of testing at shelters operated by Alpha Project, Father Joe’s Villages and PATH.

Since the omicron variant exploded in San Diego in late December, there have been more than 165 positive tests among shelter residents and staff, leading the city to halt intakes.

A Housing Commission official has said the city is following federal guidance suggesting shelters stop intakes if they have three or more positive cases. That has meant that Father Joe’s and Alpha Project, which each operate multiple city shelters, have been unable to welcome newcomers for weeks. PATH’s downtown shelter — which had been taking in new clients as of early last week — is now also unable to take in newcomers.  

Only Alpha Project’s Midway District shelter that serves homeless residents grappling with behavioral health challenges can take in new clients.

At a City Council committee hearing last week, Housing Commission Executive Vice President Lisa Jones said she was hopeful the city could reopen shelters soon.

In a statement to NBC 7 San Diego last week, a city spokeswoman acknowledged the increase in COVID cases is stymieing city efforts to move more homeless residents off the streets, including with homeless outreach teams and police enforcement aimed at homeless camps like one that has been growing in the Midway District.

“The current increase in COVID cases has put a strain on shelter resources, making enforcement and other tools to get persons experiencing homelessness into shelter more challenging,” spokeswoman Ashley Bailey told NBC 7. “With case numbers slowing, we hope to have full use of shelters soon.”

Lawyers Fear Private Council Hearing Could Portend 101 Ash Settlement

The San Diego City Council is prepared Monday to discuss behind closed doors a trio of lawsuits tied to 101 Ash St., the downtown high-rise mired in scandal. 

Private updates on litigation are a normal part of public affairs. But some observers are concerned that elected officials are preparing to settle prematurely. 

Two of the lawsuits in question were filed by city attorneys last year in an attempt to back out of the city’s 101 Ash lease and nearly identical Civic Center Plaza lease and allege that there was a conflict of interest at the center of both deals. A third lawsuit, though also seeking to quash the 101 Ash St. lease, was filed by attorneys Maria Severson and Mike Aguirre on behalf of a lone taxpayer. 

So what’s the problem? 

As Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts explain in the Politics Report, the city’s possible settlement discussion comes shortly after Chris Wahl, an influential lobbyist for the landlord at both properties, was ordered to appear for a deposition. That’s scheduled to take place on Wednesday. 

In the meantime, Severson has asked elected officials not to make any decisions before Wahl is deposed and to hold a public hearing to ensure council members are fully informed. 

Also in our Saturday political newsletter: A proposed tax hike for libraries and parks will wait for 2024. Advocates have teamed up with the largest union of city workers to gather signatures but say the presidential election increases their odds of getting a ballot measure approved by voters. 

Meanwhile, two weeks after a spokesperson for Mayor Todd Gloria told us he would not be “getting out in front of the various citizens initiatives that are still in the conceptual phase,” and that he would “evaluate each initiative carefully once they’ve qualified for the ballot,” Gloria instead signed the petition to help one of those citizens initiatives qualify for the ballot. IBEW, one of the groups behind the measure to increase sales taxes for regional transportation projects, promoted the mayor’s support in a Saturday Tweet.

Over on the podcast: Our hosts set the scene for a public feud between labor leaders and SDSU over the Mission Valley stadium redevelopment. They also explain why former San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre is suing the National Football League over the Chargers’ move to Los Angeles in 2017. 

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In Other News

  • Brian Schrader, a software developer and writer, argues that regional plans for more housing may sound extreme but fall short of the actual long term need.
  • Richard Bailey, the Republican mayor of Coronado, has withdrawn from the congressional race against Democrat Scott Peters. U-T columnist Michael Smolens writes that the new lines of the district give Democrats an even greater advantage.
  • The Union-Tribune reports that the city treasurer will ask the City Council to vote Tuesday to postpone the implementation of long-wanted vacation rental regulations for months beyond a planned July start date.

This Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx and Lisa Halverstadt. It was edited by Andrew Keatts.

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