A student at Aspen Leaf Preschool hangs onto a rock climbing structure in the school's playground on March 3, 2022. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Licensed child care facilities have been required to ensure kids wear masks since the start of the pandemic. But some operators, like the owners of Aspen Leaf Preschool, have long thought the rules didn’t make sense. The children spend hours a day eating and napping with no mask on — whatever airborne germs one has, they all get. 

Aspen Leaf’s owners made a decision from the start that they wouldn’t follow the mask mandate. They openly advertised their policy on their website, parents knew about it and state regulators had even visited their facilities multiple times without incident. 

Then regulators received a complaint from a parent. Instead of changing their mask policy, as regulators requested, Aspen Leaf’s owners challenged the child care licensing department’s authority to even enforce a mandate. That’s when regulators showed up at all three of Aspen Leaf’s facilities in mid-January to conduct what some parents have called coordinated “mask raids.”

During the investigation, regulators separated children and interviewed them without familiar adults present in isolated rooms. Many Aspen Leaf parents said they believed such severe tactics were only meant to be used in child abuse investigations. 

“This gross abuse of power is shameful and unacceptable for many reasons,” wrote parents in a complaint. “The people who ordered this to be done and those who participated should be held responsible.” 

Read the full story here. 

Politics Report: On the Anti-Gómez Mail Pieces

Voters in the 80th Assembly District this month have received a healthy dose of negative mailers about Georgette Gómez, the former councilwoman to fill the seat vacated by Lorena Gonzalez’s resignation, over significant errors on her 2017 tax returns.

The mailers are largely funded by a Sacramento towing company. The Politics Report this weekend tried to understand why Henry Ramos, the owner of the towing company, was so invested in the race. “No comment,” he said, twice, when reached by phone.

The political action committee opposing her also received a chunk of money from business groups, lending to a developing dynamic in the race: former Councilman David Alvarez is winning support from pro-business types, while more progressive leaders are supporting Gómez.

Also in the Politics Report this week: the local Democratic Party has opted not to endorse anyone in the District 2 City Council race, even though incumbent Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell is running for re-election. Party Chair Will Rodriguez-Kennedy said it was a rare time in which the party had nothing to lose by waiting until voters had a chance to weigh in.

Read the Politics Report here. That’s our weekly newsletter exclusively for VOSD members. 

Over on the podcast: our hosts explain what “net zero” carbon emissions means and what we as a region are facing as politicians trumpet their climate “successes” that are effectively a wishlist for some other elected official to deal with later. The crew also surveyed new rules for street vendors. 

What We Learned 

Lisa Halverstadt recently reported that street homelessness, and the despair associated with it, appears to be surging in San Diego. New data shows deaths of unhoused people are also rising, with drug overdose deaths among homeless residents alone spiking 85 percent in the city last year.

To continue the conversation, our Megan Wood spoke with one formerly homeless individual who explained why he turned down shelter when it was offered, and reminded us of the misconception we often hear: becoming homeless could never happen to you or me. 

Read the conversation in the latest What We Learned This Week newsletter, and subscribe here for free.

In Other News 

  • The Union-Tribune reported that a second civil lawsuit has been filed against the Chargers for moving to Los Angeles. (Loyal VOSD podcast fans might recall hearing us talk about the first suit) The suits were inspired by a case in Missouri that resulted in a $800 Million settlement. 
  • San Diego Unified School District is dropping its indoor mask mandate in April, officials announced Friday. San Diego Unified was one of the last local school districts holding out on that change. (Fox 5) 
  • The outcome of a 2020 hotel-tax hike that would fund a Convention Center expansion, homeless services and road repairs remains up for debate two years later, but KPBS reports that an initial court ruling could be coming soon.

The Morning Report was written by Will Huntsberry, Andrew Keatts, Jesse Marx, Megan Wood and Lisa Halverstadt. It was edited by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña. 

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