Facebook Journalism Project - COVID-19 Reporting

Facebook Journalism Project - COVID-19 Reporting

EAST COUNTY MAGAZINE RECEIVES $100,000 GRANT FROM FACEBOOK JOURNALISM PROJECT

 

COVID-19 Local News Relief Fund aids over 200 newsrooms nationwide

By Miriam Raftery

East County Magazine has been selected to receive $100,000 through the Facebook Journalism Project COVID-19 Local News Relief Fund Grant Program.  Facebook announced that more than 200 news organizations will receive nearly $16 million in grants through the program as part of Facebook’s $100 million global investment in news.

Read more about our grant project here.  View an index of our grant works to date, organized by topic.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

CREST ELEMENTARY SCHOOL’S NEW OUTDOOR EDUCATION PROGRAM SHINES IN THE ERA OF COVID

By Kendra Sitton

September 27, 2020 (Crest) -- Crest Elementary School has been shrinking for years, with less and less students enrolled every single year since 2003. Today, however, they have a list of over 90 families wishing to enroll in the school, some from outside the Cajon Valley Union School District. The difference between 2020 and the last 17 years is one program that makes outdoor learning a key part of education at the school.

The school in a rural area east of El Cajon held its first Crest Outdoor Immersion program over 10 days this summer. School officials plan to bring the program into a year-round setting in a two-year pilot program where students spend three days in the classroom each week and two days exploring the outdoors. The classrooms will have multiple grades in them.

At the first in-person Cajon Valley Union School District meeting since the pandemic began, the support for the program from students, parents, teachers and members of the board was evident as supporters wearing blue shirts filled the board room with chairs spaced apart.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

VIEW VIDEO OF OUR SUPERVISORS CANDIDATE FORUM

 

September 27, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – On September 21, East County Magazine hosted a candidate forum for San Diego County's District 2 Supervisor race. Poway Mayor Steve Vaus and former State Senator Joel Anderson shared their views on hot issues including COVID-19, housing, homelessness, racial justice/public safety, wildfire preparedness and more.

Video is now posted. You can view the fll forum video by clicking the image at left, or click here: https://youtu.be/o4KtvVquSV4

The forum, held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was moderated by ECM editor Miriam Raftery and supported by a Facebook Journalism Project grant. Scroll down for details on the candidates. 


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

COUNTY REMAINS IN RED TIER, AVOIDS NEW SHUTDOWNS FOR AT LEAST TWO WEEKS

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego County Public Health Officer

September 23, 2020 (San Diego) – The state announced yesterday that San Diego County will remain in tier two, the red tier, after narrowly keeping COVID-19 cases just below the threshold that would have shifted our region into the more restrictive tier one, or purple tier. That means that recently reopened businesses won’t have to shut down again or reduce current capacity for at least two weeks and schools retain the option to provide in-classroom learning.

Even though the state rejected the county’s argument to exclude San Diego State University’s outbreak cases from the county’s total, the region remained under 7 cases per 100,000 – but just barely, at 6.9 per 100,000 for the assessment period ending Sept. 12.

The state uses two metrics, case rates and testing positivity rates, to determine which tier to assign. On positivity rates, the county is doing much better at 3.8%, well below the 4.9% that would qualify for the even less restrictive orange tier. But both metrics would have to be met. 

To drop down into the orange tier, which would allow many businesses to increase capacity, the county would have to keep its positivity rate down and show a reduction in its case rase below the required threshholds for at least two weeks. Due to a lag time in assessments, the soonest that could occur would be three weeks from now.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

HOMELESS HOUSING PROPOSED AT HOLIDAY INN: LA MESA HOLDS SPECIAL MEETING MONDAY, SUPERVISORS REVOTE TUESDAY ON PROJECT PUSHED THROUGH WITHOUT NOTICE TO CITY OR RESIDENTS

Story and photos by Miriam Raftery

File photo: cart at a homeless camp in Spring Valley

Updated with information on additional actions La Mesa has taken in the past week and will consider this week to help its homeless residents.

View background report provided to council members

September 17, 2020 (La Mesa) – The state and county want to convert a Holiday Inn in La Mesa to provide 139 units of transitional housing for the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless due to COVID-19.  Supervisors initially approved an application to the state for the “Homekey” project on Sept. 15 with no prior notification to the city of La Mesa, residents or businesses nearby. 


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

PARKWAY PLAZA SELLS AFTER OWNER DEFAULTS ON BONDS: FUTURE OF REGIONAL SHOPPING MALL IS IN LIMBO

By Miriam Raftery

September 15, 2020 (El Cajon) – Starwood Capital Group has lost ownership of Parkway Plaza Regional Shopping Mall in El Cajon and six other U.S. malls, after defaulting on Israeli-held bonds.  A ratings downgrade on the debt earlier this year triggered a clause allowing bondholders to take control of the properties. 

Six parties bid on the portfolio back in May, including Starwood.  The winning bidder, a partnership between Pacific Retail Capital Partners and Golden East Investors, have indicated they “plan to replace department store tenants or repurpose the malls into apartments or offices,” the Wall Street Journal reports, according to The Real Deal.

But El Cajon Councilman Gary Kendrick says getting rid of East County’s largest and only indoor regional shopping mall “would be unacceptable.”  He anticipates the mall’s new owners will face opposition to any such proposal from the City Council.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

SANTEE MAYORAL CANDIDATES AND A COUNCIL CONTENDER AGREE CITY FACES RACIAL CRISIS, BUT CLASH OVER DEVELOPMENT ISSUES

View full video of ECM’s Santee Mayoral and City Council candidates forum

By Mike Allen

Photo: Santee Mayor John Minto and his opponent, Councilman Stephen Houlahan, City Council candidates Samm Hurst and Dustin Trotter

Both candidates for Santee mayor, and one candidate for District 4 have varying opinions on issues but to one question about the biggest crisis besides traffic facing the city, the three agreed it’s racial intolerance. But the three voiced divergent views on housing and development issues, including controversies involving Fanita Ranch.

The candidates responded to questions at a forum held Sept. 10 via Zoom hosted by East County Magazine. Mayor John Minto and Councilman Stephen Houlahan, who is vying to become Santee’s mayor, along with City Council candidate Samm Hurst appeared at the hour and a half forum moderated by ECM Editor Miriam Raftery.

Dustin Trotter, a construction contractor running against Hurst, declined to appear, saying he had a prior scheduled meeting. He also did not respond to a request for a one-on-one interview via Zoom with ECM’s editor, but has responded to questions from ECM reporter Mike Allen, which will be published soon along with in-depth interviews with all Santee candidates.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

LEMON GROVE CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES TO PARTICIPATE IN FORUM SEPT. 16

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Lemon Grove candidates David Arambula, George Gastil, Liana Lebaron, and Teresa Rosiak

 

August 29, 2020 (Lemon Grove) – All four Lemon Grove City Council candidates have agreed to participate in a candidate forum hosted by East County Magazine on Wednesday, September 16 at 7 p.m. This is your opportunity to learn more about the candidates looking to represent you, as well as to ask questions on issues of importance community.

The forum will be held on Zoom due to COVID-19 and will be livestreamed at https://www.facebook.com/EastCountyMagazine.  Video will also be posted later at www.EastCountyMagazine.org and audio will be aired on KNSJ radio. You can send in questions before noon on the 16h to editor@eatcountymagazine.org. ECM editor Miriam Raftery will moderate the forum, which is made possible through a Facebook Journalism Project grant.

The four candidates are:


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

LEMON GROVE MAYORAL CANDIDATES SET TO DEBATE MONDAY, SEPT. 14

 

View a videotape of the forum now posted :

Youtube:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVtSH4cwfEQ

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EastCountyMagazine/videos/10219161150363190

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left to right:  Councilman Jerry Jones, Kamaal Martin, Mayor Racquel Vasquez, Chris williams

September 5, 2020 (Lemon Grove)—On Monday, September 14 at 7 p.m., all four candidates running for the Lemon Grove City Council have agreed to participate in a candidate forum.  The forum will be virtual via Zoom. You can watch it live via livestreaming at https://www.facebook.com/EastCountyMagazine, and send in questions to editor@eastcountymagazine.org now through up to 2 p.m. the date of the forum. 

For those unable to watch live, a video will also be posted later on our news site at www.EastCountyMagazine.org and audio will be aired on KNSJ 89.1 FM radio at a date to be announced.

(Lemon Grove's City Council candidates will be in a separate forum on Sept. 16 at 7 p.m.)

East County Magazine thanks the #FacebookJournalismProject for a grant to help support our virtual candidate forums during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The four mayoral candidates are Mayor Raquel Vasquez, Councilman Jerry Jones, financial professional Kamaal Martin, and businessman Chris Williams. Below are more details on each candidate and links to their websites, as well as highlights of key issues.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

FIRE DAMAGES ELECTRIC SYSTEM: SOME RESIDENTS COULD BE WITHOUT POWER FOR A WEEK OR MORE

By Miriam Raftery

September 8, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – The Valley Fire has damaged the electric system across numerous rural communities that may be without power for days. Some communities left sweltering without power since Sept. 5 may not have power restored until Sept. 15 in order to repair fire damage. An additional circuit sustained weather damage to equipment.

The prolonged outage includes some circuits in Alpine, Barrett Lake, Buckman Springs, Campo, Dehesa, Dulzura, Jamul, Lyons Valley, Morena Village,  Potrero, and Rancho Palo Verde. With the 17,000 acre wildfire still burning and Santa Ana winds forecast tonight, the outages imperil residents ability to receive emergency notifications, open electric garage doors to evacuate, or pump water to drink or fight spot fires, unless they own generators.

SDG&E has alerted customers and posted estimated dates of power restoration on its outage webpage at https://www.sdge.com/residential/customer-service/outage-center/outage-map. The communities and circuits impacted are listed below. You can find your circuit on your SDG&E bill.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

POTENTIAL FOR “DANGEROUS SITUATION” TONIGHT AS HIGH WINDS FORECAST TO FAN VALLEY FIRE WESTWARD

 

Update 8:37 p.m.: The fire is now 11% contained and has burned 17,565 acres.  20 habitable structures have been destroyed and 9 more homes damaged; 25 outbuildings have also been lost.

EVACUATION ORDERS:

Lawson Valley • Japatul Valley • Corte Madera Ranch • Lyons Valley • Carveacre • WiseCarver

EVACUATION WARNINGS:

Pine Valley • Descanso • Alpine • Viejas • Dulzura • Barrett Junction • Potrero

ROAD CLOSURES:

Japatul Rd. & Lyons Valley Rd./Japatul Rd. • Japatul Rd @ Tavern Rd/Dehesa Rd • Lyons Valley Rd & Honey Springs Rd •

Wisecarver Lane @ Wisecarver Truck Trail • Skyline Truck Trail & Lawson Valley • Japatul Rd at Via Asoleado (also at Sequan Truck Trail) • Corral Canyon at Buckman Springs (Buckman Springs is open) • High Glen Rd • Hidden Glen Rd

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photos by Henri Migala and Miriam Raftery

El Capitan High School in Lakeside opened as new shelter for evacuees

Photo, left by Henri Migala: Cal Fire/County Fire Chief Tony Mecham briefs Supervisor Dianne Jacob and supervisorial candidate Steve Vaus after press conference today at Viejas

September 8, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – At a press conference today held at the Viejas events center in Alpine, fire chiefs and county officials warned the public that Santa Ana winds with gusts up to 50 miles an hour are forecast to hit starting at 8 p.m. tonight – with the strongest winds in the middle of the night. Though firefighters have been working tirelessly battling blames and bulldozing containment lines, prioritizing the fire’s western flank, leaders warn that the winds will fan the fire westward towards Jamul and San Diego.

“The potential is out there for a very dangerous situation,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob (photo, left), who added that she hopes and prays we don’t see another major firestorm like the destructive Laguna fire in 1970, Cedar Fire in 2003 or the 2007 firestorms.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

MILITARY JOINS BATTLE AGAINST VALLEY FIRE: NEW EVACUATION ORDERS ISSUED

Santa Ana winds forecast tomorrow as firefighters race to contain firestorm

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left: Fire encroaching on Rock Canyon winery yesterday

Update 6:25 p.m. Cal Fire reports the fire has grown significantly, charring17,345 acres but is now 3% contained.

Update 3:45 p.m.  New mandatory evacuations have been given for Corte Madera south of Pine Valley.

September 7, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Dawn brought relief for many East County residents who evacuated or sheltered in place during the night, while firefighters limited the Valley Fire’s spread. View live-mapping of the fire perimeter at this link.

But today also brings new evacuations at Corral Canyon and Bobcat Meadows in Cleveland National Forest due to an immediate threat.  As a precaution, all camgrpounds in the federal forest will be closed for one week.

Ken, a homeless man camped at the Boulder Creek Canyon who has lived for years at campgrounds in the federal forest, emailed ECM that he was given just two hours to get out this Labor Day holiday.  "I told the person I had been drinking and WOULD NOT drive drunk nor leave my home," he said.  "I said I will go when I am sober or they can arrest me before then...Apparently there is NO evacuation area to the EAST. I have to go out in the sun or go to Steele Canyon."

“Fire growth is impacting the Lawson Valley and Carveacres areas. There is an immediate threat to Loveland Reservoir and the surrounding water shed,” Cleveland National Forest reports today.  As of this morning, the blaze has consumed 10,258 acres, 408 more than yesterday.

Though the fire remains just 1% contained, there is some good news.

“Because of the proactive efforts of Cal Fire, today we will be exercising the agreement we have with the Navy Third Fleet and the First Marine Expeditionary Force to utilize military aircraft on the fire,” Cal Fire Captain and Public Information Officer Kendal Bortisser reports.

The bad news is that the National Weather Service predicts Santa Ana winds will sweep into our region tomorrow through Thursday, with gusts up to 50 miles per hour, along with continuing hot, dry conditions though slightly cooler than the record-shattering temperatures this weekend that hit 114 degrees in some of the fire-affected areas.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

VALLEY FIRE THREATENS SUNRISE POWERLINK AND WATER SUPPLIES

By Miriam Raftery

Photo via Lakeside Fire:  Firefighters battle Valley Fire for a second sleepless night amid record-breaking heat.

September 6, 2020, 9:30 p.m. (San Diego’s East County) – As firefighters battle the Valley Fire for a second sleepless night, the blaze has burned 9,850 acres, more than doubling since early this morning. It remains only  1% contained, with evacuation that now range south to the border, north past I-8 and Pine Valley, east to Campo, and as far west as portions of Jamul.

Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency for San Diego County.  Tonight, the fire is in the area of Lawson Valley and Carveacre, threatening Sunrise Powerlink, the major electricity supplier for most of our region, and Loveland Reservoir, which supplies drinking water to 191,000 residents, Cleveland National Forest reports.

An evacuation order is in place for Barrett Lake Dam. Evacuation warnings have been issued for Lake Morena, Dulzura, Dog Patch, Potrero, Campo, Honey Springs, Barrett Junction, Deerhorn Valley, Corte Madera, Pine Valley, and the area from Lyon Valley/Japatul Road to Interstate 8.

With power out in some areas, residents may be unable to receive evacuation calls.  Some residents have asked that if you receive an evacuation call or flee due to encroaching flames during the night, please honk your horn as you leave to alert as many neighbors as possible.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

VIEW VIDEO OF LA MESA CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES FORUM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To view video of candidate forum full size, click here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tH6GkbU9ayo&t=3085s

Note: You can now view separate video interviews with Councilwoman Kristine Alessio and Laura Lothian, who were unable to attend the forum, here:  https://www.eastcountymagazine.org/view-interviews-la-mesa-council-candi...

September 6, 2020 (La Mesa) -- At East County Magazine's virtual forum for La Mesa City Council Candidates on Thursday, candidates offered their ideas for addressing the compelling issues facing the city including police/racial justice/public safety issues in the wake of protests and a riot, downtown redevelopment, housing, homelessness, budget priorities, COVID-19 relief and more.

Three of the six candidates running participated in the forum: Councilman Colin Parent, as well as challengers Allan Durden and Jack Shu. Mark Papenfuss said he had a family emergency but will schedule a Zoom interview soon. Laura Lothian and Kristine Alessio had schedule conflicts but have provided individual interviews posted above .

Below is information on all candidates running, listed in alphabetical order:


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

VALLEY FIRE IN ALPINE THREATENS HOMES

Update 5:53 p.m.: The fire is now 1,500 acres. An evacuation order remains in effect for the community of Carve Acre.

Update 5:15 p.m.: Approximately 12,700 customers are without power as a result of the #ValleyFire. The fire is impacting SDG&E equipment in the vicinity of the fire. SDG&E has activated its Emergency Operations Center and is closely monitoring the fire. Additional cool zones are open this weekend (though not after 5pm): https://sdgenews.com/article/additional-cool-zone-hours-added-holiday-we...

Update 5:26 p.m.:  Cal Fire says the wildfire is moving west toward Lawson Valley. Those under evacuation orders can go to Steele Canyon High School at 12440 Campo Road, Spring Valley or Joan MacQueen Middle School at 2001 Tavern Road, Alpine.

Update 4:59 p.m.:  The Valley Fire is now 1,000 acres, per Cal Fire. Temperatures in the Alpine area have soared to 113 degrees.  Scanner traffic indicates a one-mile front on the fire burning toward Lawson Valley. A request for VBAT (very bit air tankers) has been denied due to them battling fires elsewhere.

Update 4:25 p.m.:  The Valley Fire is now 500 acres and zero percent contained. SDG&E's outage map indicates there are some power outages in the fire area. The Lawson Valley area in Jamul is now threatened.

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left by Kristine Pamintuan, from her home on Japatul Valey Road.

September 5, 2020 (Alpine) – The #ValleyFire is burning westward at a critical rate of spread after starting near 4561 Spirit Trail in the Japatul Valley area of Alpine. The fast-moving brush fire has burned 300 to 400 acres and is threatening homes. Residents of Carveacre are under evacuation orders, the National Forest Service reports.

Multiple fire agencies have responded including air tankers and helicopters. SG&E's Sky Maverick is also doing water drops.

Firefighters are battling the blaze in 105 degree heat with winds 14-28 mph amid a red flag alert and gusty winds.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

SANTEE COUNCIL AND MAYORAL CANDIDATES FORUM SET FOR SEPT. 10

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left to right: Mayor John Minto and challenger Stephen Houlahan; City Council candidates Samm Hurst and Dustin Trotter

September 5, 2020 (Santee) – East County Magazine will host a forum on Thursday, Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. for candidates running for Santee Mayoral and City Council races. To date, Mayor John Minto and mayoral challenger Stephen Houlahan have both agreed to participate.  In the race for an open City Council seat, Samm Hurst has confirmed she will participate; Dustin Trotter said he had a scheduling conflict for the forum. All candidates in both races have also now done separate interviews with ECM reporter Mike Allen, which will be posted soon.

The forum will be virtual on Zoom. You can watch the livestream at https://www.Facebook.com/eastcountymagazine and send questions to editor@eastcountymagazine.org. A videotape of the forum will be posted later on www.EastCountyMagazine.org and the forum will also be broadcast at a later date on KNSJ radio.

East County Magazine thanks the #FacebookJournalismProject for a grant to help support our virtual candidate forums during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Below are details on the candidates (listed in alphabetical order for each seat) and key issues:


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

GOVERNOR SIGNS BILL TO EXEMPT MANY INDEPENDENT WORKERS FROM AB 5

Update September 5, 2020 : Governor Gavin Newsom has signed this bill into law. It takes effect immediately as an emergency measure.
 
By Miriam Raftery
 
September 3, 2020 (Sacramento) – A bill to exempt many occupations from AB 5, California’s controversial new employment law, and allow those exempted to work as independent contractors instead of employees, has passed the Legislature overwhelmingly. Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to sign the measure, AB 2257, into law. If signed, it would take effect immediately as an urgency measure. View full text of AB 2257.
 
The trouble began in 2018 when the state Supreme Court’s decision in the Dynamex case imposed a strict new test of employment status in California’s burgeoning gig economy.  AB 5, authored by Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), sought to codify the court ruling but went farther, requiring that a broad range of freelancers and independent contractors be treated as employees eligible for benefits ranging from unemployment to medical care.
 
AB 5 triggered a backlash of criticism from many freelancers whose income and flexibility were severely impacted, including musicians, writers, translators and many others walloped first by AB 5, and then by the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown.

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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

LA MESA CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES TO APPEAR IN VIRTUAL CANDIDATE FORUM THURSDAY, SEPT. 3

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: La Mesa City Council candidates Allan Durden, Colin Parent, Mark Papenfuss, Kristine Alessio, Jack Shu, and Laura Lothian.  Four of the six candidates have agreed to participate.

August 29, 2020 (La Mesa) – Six candidates are vying for two seats on the La Mesa City Council. East County Magazine invited all candidates to participate in a candidate forum this Thursday, September 3 at 7 p.m. Have a question for the candidates?  You can send it to editor@eastcountymagazine.org by 12 noon on Thursday.

Four of the six candidates have confirmed they will participate.  Shown in the photo above, they are Allan Durden, Mark Papenfuss, Councilman Colin Parent, and Jack Shu.  Councilmember Kristine Alessio and Laura Lothian are not available but agreed to do an interview with ECM via Zoom, which we will post when completed.

The forum, held virtually via Zoom due to COVID-19,  will be live-streamed on Facebook here:  https://www.facebook.com/EastCountyMagazine   Video will also be recorded and posted at www.EastCountyMagazine.org after the forum. We thank the #FacebookJournalismProject for supporting our virtual candidate forums during the pandemic.

Below is information on all candidates running, listed in alphabetical order:


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

BACK TO BUSINESS: SALONS, SHOPPING MALLS, THEATERS, GYMS, RESTAURANTS, CHURCHES AND MORE CAN REOPEN MONDAY, WITH SOME LIMITATIONS

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo:  Roz Oserin, owner of Prete-a-Porter Salon and Spa, says cutting hair outdoors has been "an adventure" but she looks forward to resuming indoor services starting Monday.

August 29, 2020 (San Diego) –  Yesterday, the state announced new rules to allow many businesses and houses of worship to reopen in counties including San Diego, with streamlined new criteria.

Starting Monday, August 31, the new state tiered system allows the following businesses in our region to reopen, with the following requirements:


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

EL CAJON COUNCIL BACKS OFF MAYOR’S PROPOSAL TO BAN POLICE FROM ENFORCING COVID-19 RULES

By Miriam Raftery

August 29, 2020 (El Cajon) – At a special meeting yesterday, El Cajon’s City Council heard a barrage of public comments, nearly all opposed to Mayor Bill Well’s proposal to direct police to stop enforcing state and county COVID-19 laws and regulations including business closures, mask wearing and social distancing 

The Mayor indicated that on his Facebook page, however, he heard from many more people, most in favor if his plan.

 In the end, the Mayor proposed a watered down motion that leaves enforcement up to the police chief and ciy manager, with some council guidance.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

HIGH PRICES, LOW INVENTORY PUT SQUEEZE ON LOW-INCOME AND FIRST-TIME HOMEBUYERS AMID PANDEMIC

 

By Helen Horvath

 

August 22, 2020 (San Diego) - You might think that amid the pandemic’s economic uncertainties, when many people are unemployed or living on reduced revenues, people would be hesitant to invest in buying a home. Yet real estate experts interviewed by ECM report the opposite – a frenzy of competitive bidding pushing up prices of local homes for sale. While a shortage of inventory is benefitting home sellers, the pandemic pandemonium in San Diego County’s real estate market poses daunting challenges for first-time homebuyers and those with low or moderate incomes.  


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

WHILE MAJOR EVENT PLANNERS RALLY TO REQUEST AID AS SHUTDOWNS CONTINUE, TRIBES RESUME EVENTS, EXEMPT FROM STATE RESTRICTIONS

By Miriam Raftery

August 24, 2020 (San Diego) – Due to state and county restrictions on gatherings of any size, most theaters, concert halls and other large event sites remained closed to prevent spread of COVID-19.  On Aug. 13, the San Diego Event Coalition held an “empty venue” rally to call not for reopening due to safety concerns, but for aid to assist the industry.  


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

ALL SCHOOLS CAN REOPEN SEPT. 1, COUNTY ANNOUNCES, PROVIDED SAFETY PLANS ARE APPROVED

By Miriam Raftery

August 25, 2020 (San Diego) – All local schools can reopen for in-person instruction starting September 1st, San Diego County public health officials announced today.  The decision does not require schools to reopen, however. Each district will determine whether it wishes to resume in-classroom instruction, continue with online learning, or a combination of both.

The action, announced in a telebriefing with school administrators, comes after the county was removed from the state’s monitoring list on Tuesday, setting in motion a 14-day timeframe after which the state will allow in-class education to reopen.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

SDG&E PLANNED OUTAGES IN TRIPLE-DIGIT HEAT AND STORMS MAY ENDANGER SAFETY OF RESIDENTS

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: New power poles in Pine Valley are made of steel, not wood, for fire safety, as part of the upgrades that SDG&E has been installing across inland San Diego County.

Updated August 23, 2020 9:40 a.m. with responses from SDG&E.

August 22, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Amid a record-breaking heat wave with monsoonal thunderstorms, flash floods and lightning-sparked fires forecast as potential added hazards, SDG&E has announced plans to shut off power for hours during the heat of the day on Sunday and Monday across much of San Diego County.  

The outages are to upgrade wood poles to steel, among other equipment upgrades or maintenance planned.

The NWS has warned that the intense heat  this week can be life-threatening for those without air conditioning, yet the power outage will leave any residents who lack generators without access to safe, cool spaces amid the COVID-19 pandemic when many public, air-conditioned places are shut down.

Rural residents with electric well pumps will also be left without water for people or livestock to drink, as well as for fighting fires, as many rural residents equipped with tanks and hoses have done in past brush fires, unless they have invested in generators. Downed communications including internet and in some areas, phone service also leave residents unable to receive emergency alerts despite a high potential for emergencies during the extreme weather conditions.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

TRENDING: OUTDOOR ROLLER-SKATING

Story by Rebecca Jefferis Williamson and Miriam Raftery 

Photo by Rebecca Jefferis Williamson:  Skaters stay cool with misters at the Viejas outdoor roller rink in Alpine

August 21, 2020 (Alpine) - Looking to change up your COVID-19 outdoor exercise routine? Consider visiting the outdoor roller-skating rink at Viejas Casino Outlets to burn off some of that quarantine-15 extra weight.  Or take a skate at the San Diego Derby United outdoor rink in Encanto to roll those pounds away—and have fun. 


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

LA MESA APPROVES CARES AID FOR RENTERS AND BUSINESSES, HELP FOR HOMELESS AND A REPORT ON CIVIL UNREST RESPONSE

By Briana Gomez

File photo:  Mike and Linda McWilliams have laid off two-thirds of the staff at their San Pasqual Winery tasting room in the La Mesa Village, according to testimony to the City Council on August 11.

August 20, 2020 (La Mesa) - The La Mesa City Council met on August 11 via teleconference,  on hour after a trying virtual town hall the previous Thursday where notification of  Police Chief Walt Vasquez’s resignation was announced publicly.  The Council approved CARES Act funding to help local renters and businesses. Other highlights included approval to hire a consultant to prepare a report on the May 30-31 protest and riot, as well as moving forward on action to help the homeless.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

PLEASE DON’T EAT THE OLEANDERS: TOXIC PLANT IS NOT A COVID CURE

By Miriam Raftery

August 19, 2020 (San Diego) – Health experts are warning the public to steer clear of deadly plant extract, Oleandrin, being touted by financial backers of President Donald Trump as a potential “cure” for COVID-19.  There is zero proof that it works beyond a test tube (in a single non-peer reviewed study) and it has never been tested on humans.  


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

COUNTY IS OFF STATE WATCH LIST, BUT NOT OUT OF THE WOODS FOR COVID-19

By Miriam Raftery

August 19, 2020 (San Diego) – San Diego County reached an important milestone yesterday, when the state removed the county from California’ monitoring list. The County Public Health office announced the change was made after the county’s rate of new COVID-19 cases dropped below 100 cases per 100,000 people for three consecutive days. San Diego has been on the watch list since July 3, 2020.

So what does that mean?  First, if the case rate stays under 100 per 100,000 people in the population for another 14 days (until Aug. 31), K-12 schools will be allowed to reopen. Districts will have a choice and may opt for in-class instruction, continue virtual learning, or a combination of both.

Businesses, however, will not be able to resume normal activities until the county receives further guidance on the state. So for now, closed businesses must remain shut-down and those operating outdoors cannot go back inside.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

NEWSOM ORDERS INVESTIGATION OF ROLLING BLACKOUTS; GRID OPERATOR BLAMES PUC

SDG&E thanks customers for reducing power usage, averting need for outages yesterday, but brief outages are possible over next several days during heat wave

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Creative Commons by SA-NC via Bing

August 18, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – As triple-digit heat scorches the West, California Independent Systems Operator (CAISO), which manages California’s power grid, ordered utilities to implement rolling power outages last weekend – but only notified the Governor on Friday. Outages are particularly disruptive during the pandemic, with miilions of Californians working from home and educating children at home. Many have nowhere to go to escape the heat during an outage, with libraries and other public facilities closed due to COVID-19.

Governor Gavin Newsom voiced outrage and ordered an investigation, also signing an emergency proclamation that temporarily allows some energy users and utilities to use backup energy sources to relieve pressure on the grid during peak times in the energy emergency. Meanwhile CAISO is pointing the finger at the Public Utilities Commission, claiming it has been warning the PUC to take preventive steps for years to make utility companies assure they had emergency back-up energy sources lined up, but that the PUC ignored those warnings.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

LAST-CHANCE BILL TO PREVENT FORECLOSURES AND EVICTIONS SET FOR HEARING TOMORROW

UPDATE AUGUST 20, 2020:  AB 1436 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 6-3 vote and will next be heard by the full Senate.

“There is an urgency to this.”—Assemblymember Monique Limon, who fears many Californians may lose their homes or become homeless if AB 1436, which she coauthored, is not approved

By Miriam Raftery

File photo:  Protest to stop foreclosures during the last recession

August 17, 2020 (San Diego) – To date, efforts to save homeowners and landlords from foreclosure, as well as extend eviction protections for renters in California have failed.  With the Legislature poised to adjourn soon and federal benefits expiring, a bill being heard tomorrow morning may be the last chance to prevent a wave of evictions and foreclosures. At 9:00 a.m. Aug. 18, Assembly Bill 1436 will be heard in the state Senate Judiciary Committee. 

The bill’s coauthor, Assemblymember Monique Limon, says the banking industry has been heavily lobbying members to oppose the measure. Assemblymember Limon previously introduced AB 2501 to prevent foreclosures, but the measure was defeated due to financial industry lobbyists.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

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