LA Times reporter Liam Dillon, and Voice of San Diego journalists MacKenzie Elmer, Andrea Lopez-Villafaña, Jakob McWhinney and Scott Lewis during the final panel of Politifest 2023.
LA Times reporter Liam Dillon, and Voice of San Diego journalists MacKenzie Elmer, Andrea Lopez-Villafaña, Jakob McWhinney and Scott Lewis during the final panel of Politifest 2023. / Vito Di Stefano for Voice of San Diego

Welp, another Politifest has come and gone. News was broken. Acronyms explained. Sweat shed. Now we’re left with a treasure trove of public affairs content, so strap on your bibs.

This week on the VOSD Podcast, hosts Scott Lewis, Andrea Lopez-Villafaña and Jakob McWhinney reviewed some highlights.

‘I Can Bring the Receipts’

San Diego City Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe was confronted by Amy Reichert in their debate for the County Supervisor special election.

Reichert accused Montgomery Steppe of “mudslinging” and “name-calling.” Then she requested an apology, which didn’t come.

Instead, Montgomery Steppe recounted attacks she received throughout the race for the District 4 seat and alluded to “receipts” she could bring, should the moment come to spill the beans on sus campaign strategies. But she said this wasn’t the place for that. Then she said Reichert led an “anti-vax” movement during the pandemic.

It was a critical debate for Reichert, who’s trailing in the race and runs as a Republican in an overwhelmingly Democratic district. (Watch their full debate here.)

Addiction Treatment, ‘Suitable Shelter’ and Sunbreak Ranch

One of the best panels of Politifest (it’s like picking a favorite puppy here, people) featured homelessness researcher Dr. Margot Kushel. She leads the UC San Francisco Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative, which furnished one of the most authoritative modern studies on homelessness.

Kushel reviewed those findings with Voice reporter Lisa Halverstadt, including this:

“Amongst people who use drugs three or more times a week or drank heavily, 35 percent of them reported currently wanting and trying to get treatment that they had been unable to get. And I sort of think we need to put aside all of these conversations about forcing people to treatment and treat those folks first.”

Then this week, Halversadt provided answers on why it’s so hard for providers to secure new space for such treatment.

Directly connected to addiction treatment and the unhoused population is shelter. We brought in California Attorney General Rob Bonta this year, who opined on a lot of stuff, including the legal definition of ‘suitable shelter’ — a critical component to housing the unhoused.

Right now, San Diego and many government entities in the west are wrestling with homelessness enforcement and what they’re legally allowed to do with unsheltered people. Some legal interpretations state a municipality must provide shelter before punishing someone for camping on the street, for example. In that panel featuring the AG, Lewis asked, “do you have a definition in mind of what suitable [shelter] is?” Bonta conceded, “that’s a tough question.” So, legally, we don’t have a solid answer yet.

But some San Diegans thought they had an answer in Sunbreak ranch.

The idea was championed by local businessman George Mullen and basketball star Bill Walton: drive a bunch of unhoused folks to a far-off facility to live and receive services.

They sought that dream in East Miramar. But Marine Corps leadership cited a bunch of reasons why that site is bad for humans, much less to service some of our most vulnerable residents.

This week, through the lens of our region’s most awesome politics summit, our crew reviews our region’s most pressing issues: homelessness, addiction treatment, county governance.

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Nate John is the digital manager at Voice of San Diego. He oversees Voice's website, newsletters, podcasts and product team. You can reach him at

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