The Morning Report
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It feels as if the breaking news hasn’t stopped in the last two weeks. We got new details about when the Metropolitan Transit System learned that a former employee was making allegations of sexual harassment and assault against County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who served as chair of the board of MTS.
All that … put one San Diego Councilman in the spotlight and at the reins of an agency dealing with a major scandal. Meanwhile he lost his chief of staff, and he’s in the middle of planning some big moves for how the city addresses its homelessness crisis. (The VOSD Podcast has some more deets on the position this scandal puts San Diego Councilman Stephen Whitburn in. Listen to the latest episode here or wherever you get your pods.)
Let’s jump into the chisme you might have missed, and what you need to start your week.
Inspiration Point, but Not Inspiration Point
Earlier this week, I wrote about my experience parking at Inspiration Point on a recent visit to Balboa Park. The day I went to the park most parking lots were filled, but at Inspiration Point there was plenty of space and then some on the lower level of the lot. Here’s my tweet if you want to see.
If you haven’t heard: Whitburn is proposing an ordinance that would ban camping on public land and step up enforcement to keep unhoused people away from schools, transit hubs, shelters and more. Instead, city staff are looking at Inspiration Point as a possible location for safe camping.
But wait, it’s not the only location that staff are looking at, and it has not been chosen yet. That’s a message one of Whitburn’s policy advisors had for the Uptown planning group at a recent meeting I attended.
Here are some big takeaways from that presentation on Inspiration Point: City staff is looking at Inspiration Point as an option, but there are multiple sites the city is looking at. Nothing is set in stone.
The ordinance will need approval first before the safe camping site. The city’s Land Use and Housing Committee will discuss the ordinance on April 13.
And … the decision on the location for the safe campsite probably won’t come until the fall.
But Inspiration Point is a possibility. But there are also other possibilities.
Related: Voice of San Diego intern Tianrui Huang reported on the lack of shelter options for LGBTQ+ homeless people. Read her story here.
Also … Voice photojournalist Ariana Drehsler published a short photo essay on intimate moments, rarely seen, of unhoused residents unwinding in the evening. Below is my favorite photo, but view the complete essay here.
What we Know About What MTS Knew
Late Wednesday night, we got our hands on a letter that former Metropolitan Transit System employee Grecia Figueroa and her lawyer sent Fletcher and MTS on Feb. 17.
That letter listed her claims against them: “including allegations that YOU: (1) discriminated against MS. FIGUEROA; (2) sexually harassed MS. FIGUEROA; (3) sexually assaulted MS. FIGUEROA; and (4) retaliated against MS. FIGUEROA because she complained or otherwise protested against sexual harassment that was perpetrated against her.”
Now, remember the agency released a statement last week saying that she was fired for “performance concerns” and that officials didn’t know about her claims of harassment and assault until her lawsuit dropped.
“The filing of Ms. Figueroa’s lawsuit on March 28, 2023 was the first time that MTS executive management was provided with the specific details of Ms. Figueroa’s allegations,” the statement read.
Big takeaway: MTS knew that a complaint against Fletcher and the agency was coming in February, and it had some sense of the allegations for weeks.
One more point: The agency on March 30 said it was investigating the allegations.
But, as my co-managing editor Andrew Keatts reported, it wasn’t an investigation. MTS planned to use its probe into the allegations as its legal defense in the case. Read Keatts story here.
On Thursday, the board of MTS decided to conduct a truly independent investigation. We rounded up what you need to know about that in our Morning Report newsletter on Friday. Read it here.
Another Resignation and a Temporary Leave
This late-night scoop did not have cookies and crème. But it was good.
Reporters Lisa Halverstadt and Jesse Marx reported Tuesday that Whitburn’s chief of staff, Jesus Cardenas, quit his job at City Hall in the wake of questions over his ongoing work as a political consultant.
He told Voice of San Deigo this about leaving his job: “I made the decision to step down from my position in order to pursue new opportunities. Given the recent political climate, I want to put all of my energy and effort into electing Democrats and supporting issues that uplift our community and address the complex challenges facing our region.”
Read the full story on his resignation here.
And Marx had another story on National City’s city mangager going on administrative leave for “personal reasons.” Marx breaks down how his leave followed a closed session review of his performance.
Brad Raulston has been with the city for decades, but became the source of contention, Marx writes, after taking over the city manager’s office. Labor groups have been pushing for his termination for a long time. Read Marx’s story here.
More Chisme to Start You Week
- Mazapan is my favorite Mexican candy. But this week it was in a story we ran because Tijuana’s mayor compared the city’s crumbling hills to the peanut powder candy. Heavy rain plus some illegal permits might be to blame. Contributor Sandra Dibble wrote about it in her Border Report. Read it here.
- North County reporter Tigist Layne told the story of a sobering center in Oceanside that closed its doors just two years after it opened. This comes at a time when the region is experiencing an overdose crisis and such facilities are in high demand. The city says the center was underutilized, but Layne gets into what else lead to its failure. Read more about the sobering center here.
- Layne also explained in her North County Report that Encinitas doesn’t have enough land available and suitable to accommodate all the low-income units the state said it needed to plan for. Read her newsletter here.
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