Tuesday Oct. 25, 2011 - Evening Edition

Uploaded by KPBSSanDiego on 25.10.2011

>> JOANNE: Coming up next on KPBS Evening Edition, San Diegans continue to have a hard
time signing up for food stamps. A special hot line to streamline the program
while most calls don't make it threw. >> DWANE: Trouble in the city and a new billing
system is is being blamed for erroneous bills and long waits to customer service, KPBS Evening
Edition starts now. >> JOANNE: Hello, thanks for joining us, I'm
Joanne Faryon. >> DWANE: And I'm Dwane brown.
There was another court action regarding the cross on mount Soledad today
>> JOANNE: And an animal rights group is is suing sea world, but first the recommendation
to close ten San Diego city schools. Tonight the district is hearing those recommendations.
They say they're facing a deficit of up to $118 million next year, a committee has recommended
the closure of 10 schools for a possible savings of $500,000 per campus and the report recommends
consolidating several campuses. The recommendations are not final yet, a final
vote is expected later this year. >> A San Diego city council session got cut
short this morning because of a protest by occupy San Diego, they want the council to
pass a resolution in support of their movement. They chanted and Tony young adjourns the morning
session earlier than scheduled. >> JOANNE: San Diego county has been criticizeded
for having one of the lowest food stamps participations in the country and now we reveal a special
phone line that goes unanswered. Invoice of San Diego Florida Adrian Florido
wrote the story. Adrian what's up with this?
>> Well, the phone line is for those to sign up and
move the applications along instead of going into a county office and wait for hours just
to do something simple and basic. >> JOANNE: What did you learn about the number
of calls and the wait times? >> Well, the number of calls has increased
very rapidly over the last two years. Wait times have increased as well.
Early on there were there were always long wait times because a lot of people wanted
to use this line because it was convenient. The county was trying to, after allot of the
criticism it got for having such a low enrollment rate for food stamps improved the wait times
but they have increased in the last two years, they now hover around forty minutes and that's
if you can get into the queue and are lucky enough to be put on hold.
Most don't get a call back or are dropped. >> JOANNE: We will have more on this issue
and the county response later in the program. Thank you Adrian.
>> DWANE: San Diego is is launching a new effort to help the homes get off the streets,
it's called "move in home" and 2 has kits like bathroom and kitchen supplies even the
first and last month's rent. Funds for the kits are being collected at
stations downtown, they look like parking meters, three have been installed at Horton
plaza, downtown San Diego will have 25 by the end of the year.
A federal appeals court says the cross on mount Soledad can stay.
Earlier this year the ninth circuit court ruled the cross as unconstitutional, calling
it an expression of religion, supporters of the cross say it's a war memorial.
>> JOANNE: People for the ethical treatment of animals is filing a lawsuit against sea
world for its killer whales. The suit will be filed in San Diego here tomorrow,
PITA says it's the first case seeking constitutional rights for the members of an animal species,
sea world says the lawsuit is baseless and offensive.
>> DWANE: Last week we talked about the return of immigrants.
There are 50,000 Caldeans, in San Diego, 50% of the grocery stores are owned by them.
The caldean Catholics are a huge part of the community, last year a massacred occurred,
including two priests and he says he's cautiously optimistic about withdrawing U.S. troops.
>>> We represent 21,000 employees on the west coast so when I met president Obama for the
third time he said in order for Iraq to be a long term ally we're going to hold them
accountable and protect the Christians. >> DWANE: About 100,000 people live here,
40,000 of them are Iraq refugees who came after 2007 to flea the war.
This woman is proud to be an Iraq American who has lived in San Diego since the late
80s, but has visited her home country as recently as a year ago, she says Iraq will have no
more, excuses. >>> When I was there I loved them, I seen
amp putated legs, as an American I need to add that I welcome them home and they shouldn't
have been there, they were there to help corporations make profits and they have no heart, the corporations.
>> DWANE: Now, there is disagreement of black water and Halliburuoton exists.
How to get food stamps, Joanne is at the round table.
>> As you heard getting food stamps in San Diego county can be challenging for years
they have had the lowest participation rates in the country.
County officials say they're trying to improve rates, coming up an advocate from the San
Diego coalition but first let's look at the numbers.
Back in 2008 when San Diego began making head lines, about 114,000 people received food
stamps, that number has increased to 239,000, let's look at people applying for food stamps
back in '08, about 6200 applying, this year that number has grown to more than 13,000.
Joining me to talk about the need for food stamps here in San Diego is Jennifer Tracy
from the San Diego hunger coalition, thanks for being here.
>>> Thanks. >> JOANNE: Let's talk about the obstacles
in the past, '08, '09, a lot of media attention to this issue, why were people having a hard
time getting food stamps in San Diego county? >> In the past you had to go to the San Diego
county office, there were myths and rumors, there were attitudes that didn't encourage
people to apply so those were the main things that were inhibitors for people getting food
stamps. >> JOANNE: I think people were made to feel
uncomfortable in the application process. >>> I think there were miss understandings
or misinformation on the part of staff or on the part of the community about what constituted
eligibility and I think we have seen changes in all those areas.
>> JOANNE: What's changed now specifically that we've seen the rate increase, we have
seen the number of people getting food stamps basically double in the last few years.
What happened? >> There are a lot of changes on the county
end and on the community end. The county of San Diego adopted a variety
of ways for people to apply, online, over the phone, people can mail or fax in their
applications and we have worked with a variety of community based organizations to help train
people about the process so those organizations can send in applications, The addressed issues
with workers that maybe didn't understand the regulations through examples that we provided,
and they have done a great job of partnering in general with community based organizations
to help get the word out and make sure that whatever it happening on the ground level
is an efficient and effective process for people.
>> JOANNE: We want to let people at home know that we did ask somebody from the county to
appear on the show and basically we were told no one was available but Bev a statement from
supervisor Greg Cox and he told us we are working to improve things, one of the ways
is to call the phone line, we have increased food stamps participation by more than 70%
by using 2 1 1 and we have had an increase in hiring, more than 65 eligibility workers.
Now there are a couple of laws that will help with this, what are those?
>> Governor Jerry brown will eliminate fingerprinting, so in the past people had to give a fingerprint
as a process to get benefits, cost our state over $17 million each year, it didn't prevent
fraud, so as of January of 2012, people who are applying will no longer be required to
give a fingerprint and then we are hoping in the future we can eliminate for people
who are applying for Cal works that same thing. >> JOANNE: We did see news about the line
set up, what else needs to be changed? What work do we still have to do?
>> In addition to reducing the wait times for the access contact center we would like
to see a reduction of the negative errors or the errors where people's cases are closed
or denied erroneously and we would like to see more tracking of documents.
If I go and apply and do everything right, turn in all the forms and documents and I
wait and wait and wait and then my case was denied because they can't find a document
that I turned in that's a hardship for people who are struggling to put food on the table
and feed their kids and we would like to see a reduction in that.
>> JOANNE: The country is under federal orders to improve rates, the U.S. D.A. stepped in
as well, what did they tell the county? >> One of the things was civil rights training
for their staff, addressing the lost documents and error rates and I have seen a lot of improvement
in terms of our work when they have addressed issues like with some of the error rates and
training staff so we have seen improvements in certain areas, in terms of their partnership
with us so they can identify what the issues are and overall that's helped the broader
community be able to get the word out to say this is a benefit that you're eligible for,
don't be afraid to apply, this process doesn't have to be as difficult as it has been in
the past. >> JOANNE: Where might people be able to access
more information? >> They can call 2 1 1 or go to our web site
and the if you go to the Cal fresh which is the new name for the food stamps section there
is information on how to apply online and verifications that you would need to streamline
the process. >> JOANNE: Jennifer Tracy thank you.
>>> Thank you. >> DWANE: Some San Diego water customers say
they've gotten incorrect bills, had their water shut off and a new billing system is
getting the blame. The story is coming up in just a moment.
We will meet a couple who turned personal tragedy into inspiration to help others.
This is
Evening Edition. >> DWANE: The death of a young child is a parents' worst
nightmare. After losing their son a mission hills couple
turned their anguish into action to help other parents who have children with cancer, Kenny
Goldberg tells us what it means to local families. >>> Five days a week drivers with the foundation
hit the streets of San Diego and Orange counties, they pick up children who have cancer and
deliver them to their medical appointments. 6 year old Ricardo's cancer is in remission.
He was diagnosed with leukemia when he was three weeks old.
Today he is going from his home in Spring Valley to a check up at rady children's hospital
in Kearney Mesa. His mom says the foundation was a life saver.
>>> The foundation was for us a big relief because I don't drive on the freeway and my
husband works. They picked us up and took us to the hospital
twice a week because my son needed blood and platelets, we got food vouchers, they were
always here for me >>> The foundation is named after Amelio Naris
who died from leukemia when he was 5 years old.
>>> My wife and I wanted to give back. We knew so much and we wanted to share what
we learned and the goal was to help others and help them through their journey.
>>> They learned hospitals can be scary and unsettling, especially when you have an I
will child. >>> Once your child gets diagnosed with cancer
your family system is totally disoriented. It's thrown up in the air.
So it's something totally new because none of us can prepare for cancer, it hits you.
So you need to go back to the basics, food, transportation, so that's really what the
thought was, to make sure these family get the basic services.
>>> The foundation also offers a knitting class a couple of days a week.
It's a place for parents to relax and share stories.
>>> They relate to each other because the illness affects not only the child but the
whole family. So they talk to each other about the up's
and down's on the issues and it helps them to see that it is not only them, it affects
more people and they can support each other. >>> Richard Nares says it's designed to make
the struggle easier for families. >>> To take away that anguish and fear and
pain and we know if we can do a little bit of that then we are doing our job.
>>> The Padilla family found a way to express their gratitude, not too long ago, Ricardo's
mom gave birth to a son. >>> To thank him for all he did for us we
named our son Amelio. >> DWANE: That story by Kenny Goldberg.
Since the foundation was starred in 2003 it's helped thousands of families in San Diego.
>> JOANNE: A report by the investigative news source says the San Diego utilities department
has been overwhelmed by customer complaints since changing its billing system.
The city is now paying overtime for the city employees to fix the problem.
Kelly when did this computer upgrade go into service and what was it supposed to do?
>> It went live in July and it's supposed to help customers pay their bills efficiently
online. >> JOANNE: What kinds of problems are people
reporting? >>> You've got people who have been overbilled,
double billed, received no bill, people who thought they paid their bill online and later
found out they didn't when their water was shut off.
>> So you have spoken to people who had their water shut off?
>> Right and they're not happy about it and they had trouble trying to get it reinstated
because the system is flooded with phone calls and complaints about it.
>> JOANNE: Do we have any idea how many people were affected?
>> About 6,000 people were overbilled when the system went live that's been corrected
but we don't know the number of those still in that area.
>> JOANNE: Finally you indicated there might be a software problem, what did you learn?
>> The documents are called "hot sheets" and they're documents given to the customer care
representatives to help them trouble shoot for customers calling in and it's not just
user error, there are system wide problems that they need to address.
>> JOANNE: Kelly Dorton investigative news service.
Joining me now to explain what the city is doing to address the problem is Mike Vogel
with the San Diego public utilities department thanks for being here.
>>> Thank you. >> JOANNE: Tell us what is going wrong with
the new system? >> The system is actually working very well
overall. Where we have issues is with regards to our
call center and being able to handle the number of calls we have coming in 37 they're customer
service issues. Those come from three different places, we
had a large number of folks we had to register in our new online portal, we have registered
50,000 customers to date successfully but that's generated more calls.
We have customer calls concerning their bill because their bill has been increasing and
that's part of comes from because we implemented the system at a time when bills are going
up because of higher, summer usage, we relaxed mandatory water restrictions and so forth.
>> JOANNE: I want to be clear. The problem is with not enough people to answer
complaints by phone and the problem is not with the software?
>> Whenever you go life with a new system you expect problems and issues to come up
after the fact, we planned for that but we did underestimate the scale and length of
time it would take to address those issues. So there are issues but for all intents and
purposes the system is working well. We've got 150,000 bills going out every month,
we're processing payments on time there is no backlog in those areas so the system is
working well but customers are having difficulty getting ahold of us and talking to us about
regular things that they have to do with us, moving in and opening up a new account, those
things. >> JOANNE: So according to the investigative
news source report there were a number of erroneous bills, more than 5,000, is that
not true? >> That's true in the first week after we
went live on a particular day we identified that we had sent out 5900 bills with an incorrect
sewer charge. Those bills went out on the same day and to
put that in context we send out 150,000 a month, we have sent out a half a million since
we installed the system. We addressed it quick and got corrected bills
out to those customers within three business days and most of them didn't realize there
was an issue. >> JOANNE: Did people have their water shut
off when they thought they had paid their bill through the system?
>> We have the same exceptions that occurred in the old system so on occasion we shut off
water for when we shouldn't, doesn't happen frequently but when it does we try to address
that quickly, wave any fees, prioritize the reconnection.
There has been no significant change in the number of shut offs we have done
>> JOANNE: Was the water being shut off because people thought they paid their bill through
this new system and, in fact, the system didn't register it as being paid.
>>> The system is working correctly so if somebody paid the bill online the system registered
that payment. We did have some customers who didn't reactor
respond to the noticing and so forth that we did before we went live and go in and register
in the new system. That was one of the things that our customers
did have to do is if they were registered in the old system they had to reregister in
the new system. >> JOANNE: I want to get back to the beginning
of the conversation about being overwhelm with the number of calls, how many calls have
you had in terms of complaints? >> We average anywhere from 1,000 to 1300
every day. Before we went live with the new system the
numbers weren't significantly different. What's happening now though as our agents
being more proficient in the system, it's a big change for them as well they are taking
longer to handle each call and they are being careful to make sure everything is handled
correctly but everything takes almost twice as long as it did before we went live.
With the further past the change of the system we get we expect that to get better and better.
But it's an issue and that's why people are having trouble getting into talk to us.
>> JOANNE: How long do you have to wait to talk to someone if you have a problem?
>> If you're calling into our call center you could wait 8 to 10 minutes on average
right now and maybe as long as 30 or 35 minutes during peak periods.
We hope people call to get in easier and quicker people should call Tuesday through Thursday
because Mondays and Fridays are
our bizzest days. >> JOANNE: Mike Vogel thanks
for being here. >>> Thank you.
>> JOANNE: Welcome back to the public square on KPBS Evening Edition.
The occupy San Diego movement is in its third week, protesters today asked the San Diego
city council to pass a resolution supporting the group.
They represent a wide range of age and backgrounds, tonight our partners from the media arts centers
team producers project introduce us to teenagers protesting because they're worried about their
future. >>> The influence of the younger generations
in the occupy San Diego proceed is challenging the stereotype that youth are apathetic.
>>> We want to be here because we want to be heard.
We are part of the 99%. >>> Stella and teens like they are face a
24.6% unemployment rate. >>> We can't find jobs, we don't have a future.
>>> Some say youth is involved because it's excite and go fun but they don't have a purpose.
Dustin disagrees. >>> I think the youth are the ones that have
educated themselves on the issues, they know what they're talking about and if they don't
know they're willing to learn. >>> They say they want to do something but
it is unclear how much they will influence the political and economic situation.
>>> If we don't act now we're going to find that we don't have a future and it's been
cut and dried by the big corporations and the wealthy.
>> JOANNE: That was a video from the teen producers project.
Do you have a story to tell? Or a video?
Send us your You Tube link or contact us on Twitter, Facebook and you can email us.
Now Dwane has a recap of tonight's top stories. >> DWANE: Tonight San Diego unified school
trustees heard recommendations for closing more than a dozen schools, it could save the
district $500,000 per campus. They face a budget gap of $118 million next
year. Supporters of the cross on mount Soledad have
won a stay of the ruling to remove the cross, they plan to take it to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Sea world faces a lawsuit from PETA, they claim the park's treatment of its killer whales
violates the rules against animals, the 13th amendment.
Sea world calls the lawsuit baseless. You can check out our web site for these stories
and more on www.kpbs.org/news/evening edition. Thanks for joining us, have a great night.
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