Politifest on Oct. 7, 2023 at the University of San Diego – Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies.
Politifest on Oct. 7, 2023 at the University of San Diego – Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies. / Vito Di Stefano for Voice of San Diego

A wise man once said, “Politics is beautiful.”

While that man (Voice of San Diego CEO and Editor-in-Chief Scott Lewis) is a bit nerdy, he’s not wrong. There is beauty in what helps us share power and work together for a better San Diego.

And while some might think of it as something that only takes place on TV or City Hall, it’s everywhere — our rec centers, parents groups, stadiums and community groups.

It touches everything, too. That water you’re drinking is here because of deals politicians sealed many years ago. Your neighborhood looks the way it does because of politicians’ decisions.

This year, our team brought some of the biggest names in water and housing to you, our readers, for Politifest 2023 at the University of San Diego on Saturday, Oct. 7. If you missed it, don’t worry, here’s your guide to all the conversations.

Supe Debate: Homelessness, Housing and a Demand for an Apology

Amy Reichert and San Diego City Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe debating during Politifest 2023

San Diego County Board of Supervisor District 4 candidates had plenty to say at our debate. San Diego Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe and licensed private investigator Amy Reichert are vying to fill the seat Nathan Fletcher vacated in May.

Here are some moments that stood out, but you can watch the full debate here.

On homelessness: Montgomery Steppe doubled down on her opposition to the city of San Diego’s camping ordinance. She does not believe the city can police its way out of the crisis and she believes that enforcement happening now could have proceeded without the ordinance. Montgomery Steppe also shared that encampments have moved to other neighborhoods, far from downtown resources.

  • “What is happening on our streets right now, it is criminal and I’m not going to support that, and I never will,” Montgomery Steppe said.

Reichert disagreed with Montgomery Steppe’s stance on the camping ban. She believes housed people are most concerned about the homeless population that intersects with addiction, mental illness and crime. She supports mandatory treatment.

  • “I believe if we address this population in particular, we’re also going to solve the quality-of-life issues that people are most concerned about,” she said. “I also believe it’s the most compassionate solution too.”

They agreed: Neither supports Senate Bill 10. The state legislation allowed developers to replace single-family homes with structures of up to three stories.

A tense moment: Our Jakob McWhinney recapped a tense moment in the debate when Reichert asked for an apology from Montgomery Steppe. Find out what happened here.

The AG Had a lot to Say

Attorney General Rob Bonta at the final Politifest 2023 panel.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta joined us for a special live recording of the VOSD Podcast. He was there to talk about how his office plans to enforce housing law, but honey, Bonta had more to say. Watch the discussion here or listen to the podcast.

Here are some mic drops from the AG.

Coronado is getting its act together: Bonta shared that a housing accord with the city of Coronado is close. The city has failed to comply with state housing laws, but Bonta said his office is on the verge of “announcing something.”

Sheriff must find solution to jail deaths: A question from an audience member prompted Bonta to break some news: If San Diego’s jail deaths don’t come down, his office could pursue multiple legal remedies.

  • “A lawsuit is always possible. We launch pattern and practice investigations when civil rights have been violated,” said Bonta. “We’ve done that in Riverside County… and we can do it here, as well.”

We rounded up all he had to say about jail deaths and got response from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. Read more here.

The AG’s take on camping bans: Bonta also weighed in on camping bans and a push to get the U.S. Supreme Court to clarify how cities can clear homeless encampments.

  • Our Lisa Halverstadt followed up with Bonta after the podcast on more points and asked for his take on the city of San Diego’s camping ban. Read that post here.

All Things Water

Politifest on Oct. 7, 2023 at the University of San Diego – Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies.
Politifest on Oct. 7, 2023 at the University of San Diego – Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies. / Vito Di Stefano for Voice of San Diego

Our Scott Lewis brought together leaders from the largest water agencies in Southern California to look back at the Quantification Settlement Agreement. They discussed its success and its challenges. Watch the discussion here and witness a historic fist bump.

  • About that fist bump: For the latest Environment Report, MacKenzie Elmer unpacked the historic tension between San Diego County Water Authority and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Read that post here.

Elmer led a conversation with water representatives from across the American west on the future of the Colorado River. The revelations on our most valuable source are shocking. Watch the panel here.

We also hosted a discussion about San Diego’s coasts with representatives from Oceanside to Imperial Beach. Local leaders are looking for ways to save their iconic shores from erosion. How will they do it? We get into that and more, listen to the discussion here.

What It’s Like Being Homeless

Dr. Margot Kushel of UC San Francisco speaks at the University of San Diego for Politifest 2023 on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023.
Dr. Margot Kushel of UC San Francisco speaks at the University of San Diego for Politifest 2023 on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023. / Vito Di Stefano for Voice of San Diego

Our Lisa Halverstadt hosted a discussion with the lead researcher behind one of the most authoritative studies on homelessness, Dr. Margot Kushel of UC San Francisco. They reviewed the study’s key findings and the state’s push to force people into treatment. Watch the full interview here.

  • One finding that stands out: “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,” Kushel said.

Eye-opening discussion: Halverstadt also moderated a conversation with people who have been or are currently homeless. They talked about their daily struggles, challenges to get off the street and more.

Andrea Lopez-Villafaña, Managing Editor, Daily News Andrea oversees the production of daily news stories for Voice of San Diego. She welcomes conversations...

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1 Comment

  1. This so-called Politifest is a textbook example of American frauds following big powerful organizations, big powerful donors, big powerful PAC’s, big powerful local citizens. It’s a fraud perpetrated by people who really think they know it all when in fact they know nothing.

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