Welcome to the first episode of Santa Monica Next’s new podcast What’s Next hosted by Damien Newton. This week’s episode features Spectrum News 1 anchor Kate Cagle, who is perhaps even better known to our readers and listeners in Santa Monica from her work at the Santa Monica Daily Press. Listen on and find out what Chase from Paw Patrol and April O’Neal have in common.
A full transcript of the episode can be found below the podcast. Thanks to Kate for joining us and look for our next episode in two weeks. If you missed our first episode with Councilmember Jesse Zwick, you can find it here.
Damien Newton (DN): Welcome to the second episode of What’s Next, the Santa Monica next podcast. Thank you for joining us today and we have a great guest: Kate Cagle. She is the anchor for Spectrum News1, and as many of you hopefully remember, a former reporter for the Santa Monica Daily Press. We’re talking about policing. We’re talking about homelessness. And in our five fun question segment towards the end, we get to find out what fictional reporter had the biggest impact on Kate’s career. So without any further ado, let’s get right into it. Here’s my interview with Kate Cagle.
DN: As I mentioned in the intro, I’m here with Kate Cagle, a renowned reporter formerly with the Santa Monica Daily Press now with Spec. News One where for a couple of years, she was really out on the street doing a lot of reporting at places like Echo Park, the Venice boardwalk, and a lot of places where news was breaking, involving policing, homelessness services, and outreach and all sorts of major stories. And now she’s the anchor for Spectrum News, one or one of the anchors at Spectrum, News One, and we are very happy to have her with us today. So thank you for being here today.
Kate Cagle (KG): We’re now and wow, I laughed. Thank you.
DN: For anyone listening for the first time we base this podcast format right now, actually, it said on the original Daily Show format. And we’re gonna keep doing that for at least another month before we might tinker with it. And I mean, again, this is the pre John Stewart version of the Daily Show. So that format was: a topic that I want to talk about and a topic that Kate wants to talk about, And then five fun questions.
Some of which were submitted by readers, some of which were, we came up with internally, and one of which is actually a leftover question from our last podcast with Jesse’s Zwick.
So anyway, so let’s let’s start talking about one of the issues that you covered a lot when you were out on the street, which obviously is been the sort of biggest one in LA County politics for the past several years, arguably even bigger than the Coronavirus and the government’s response to Coronavirus , which is the issue of homelessness and people experiencing homelessness and what people are experiencing on the streets, what people that are housed are experiencing in their neighborhoods. When I look at this issue politically, and I see two sides, really that talk about different answers, and when it comes down to is what point of view. And I’m going to ask you to either correct me or agree with me what point of view you’re coming with, are you looking at as people are discussing the issue?
Are you coming at it from what is best for the people that are living in a community? Usually, they’re already housed or have been here for a long time. And what is best for the people that are in the community that are unhoused, whether they’ve been living there for a long time, or they’re transient and just passing through or something like that.
And usually, what I’ve discovered is depending where your point of view to start with there is how people sort of view the issue. You’ve talked to way more people about this than I have both people experiencing homelessness, policymakers, people that are housing communities. Is do you sort of agree with that take? Or do you see sort of different divisions and how people view the issue?
KC: I think I see a lot of unnecessary conflict, because at the end of the day, everyone I talked to wants the same thing. They want the homeless crisis address, like a humanitarian crisis, they want people to no longer be living on the street. I think that there’s this false narrative that, you know, whether you’re a house person or a business owner, or whether you’re living in a tent, that you have different values that you’re bringing to the equation, when at the end of the day, everyone just wants the system to work. And it’s clearly not working for anyone.
DN: When I was writing at Streetsblog, we did a series on the different types of housing and shelters and all of that, that are commonly used and built where we went, we went to the different different places one and you know, Ascensia in Glendale places like that, including the one down on Venice Boulevard.
And we talked to the Santa Monica Community Housing Corporation, all those sorts of groups about affordable housing, bridge, housing, all of that. It seemed when we did it that with the exception of Venice, where there were other issues related to the pandemic and their ability to keep the area around the around the bridge housing center sort of safe and clean…with the exception of that most communities that had these sort of affordable housing or bridge housing programs didn’t seem to really, again, I’m referring to the house community,didn’t seem to care after they had been there for a couple years. In some cases, especially Glendale, there was like whole volunteer programs where the community was like pitching in to provide meals and stuff like that.
And I’m wondering because you’ve obviously covered a lot of the conflict It has been happened in communities as new developments we’re going to you. Is that something that you’ve been able to notice, too, that there’s a lot of fear and concern in the beginning, but generally, again, Venice being the exception as time goes on, people get more comfortable with them.
KC: Yeah, I mean, I definitely remember interviewing people in Hollywood around the bridge shelter that opened there. And there were a lot of folks in the neighborhood who really supported it opening and what they understood, the main issue was that shelter opened with a fraction of the number of beds needed to house the people who are already living on that block on the sidewalk.
And I remember talking to a mom whose kid went to a nearby elementary school who said, they would welcome more bridge housing, if it meant that they could bring people inside and clear out the sidewalks.
So I have the interviewed people and communities that welcome the shelter program. I think that what happened in with that shelter in Hollywood and with Venice was the collision of a lot of these projects coming online. Like I think that the sunset shelter open just a few months before the pandemic hit. And that just completely changed one the priorities of the city and of the gar city administration. And it also changed the guidelines around shuffling people and cleaning the streets.
So all of a sudden, it was it was the CDC that was telling the city do not displace people during the pandemic, they didn’t want populations mixing. So there was this city wide freeze on doing sweeps and cleanups. And I think that that fueled even more disappointment in Venice, because there had been promises specifically around that shelter that the neighbors would see results. So I think, like I said, just the timing was really unfortunate. I mean, the whole pandemic was unfortunate. And it really created more of a crisis because even the city’s efforts and the promises that they were trying to make, they could no longer holds up because they were being told not to.
DN: Now, I apologize for anyone listening to feels like we’re not being Santa Monica enough; because I did want to talk about Inside Safe, which is a City of LA program. And the reason this is the one that’s been on a lot of the news programs, not just yours, but the other ones and the mayor of Los Angeles, Karen Bass is out there promoting the program pretty heavily. So it’s one that I think a lot of people are familiar with Gleam Davis, the mayor of Santa Monica does not show up every time the city is doing sort of homeless outreach. So we don’t have as as easy a comparison that I think people are familiar with.
But Inside Safe is is in short a program the city’s doing right now to try and get people off the streets into temporary housing. It’s gotten a lot of praise from people and communities because you can fizz that are already housed because you can see a definite impact in the areas where it’s it’s the program has been as far as there’s no encampments there and things look cleaner.
It’s gotten sort of a mixed results from direct advocates for the homelessness and people that are living in these hotels, because they’re getting moved around a lot. And a lot of cases, especially ones on the west side, Venice, specifically, you know, they’re in hotels that are 15-20 miles away, which for the people that have jobs is really difficult. I just wanted to get your sort of feelings on how that’s going and maybe what lessons other cities be they Culver City or Santa Monica or whoever might be able to get from what’s going on in Los Angeles right now.
KC: I think that there’s been a major shift in the city and just speaking at City Hall. The sense of urgency that voters voters sent a clear message to city hall in November that this was THE issue to them. And Mayor Karen Bass certainly went in with a mandate to show results quickly. What I keep saying, and I don’t know if this is PC, that this is the easy part. Throwing someone’s tent away is an easy thing for the city to do.
Renting motel rooms is something the city learned how to do during the pandemic through Project room key. And I think that they realize that bypassing having to sell a shelter to a community when there’s already a hotel there that you can simply book up the hotel rooms and move folks inside. The city now knows how to do that. The hard part is permanent housing. The hard part is keeping people inside once we get there there.
Everyone saw the report that the UCLA Luskin Institute did around Echo Park Lake. And, you know, only a handful of people who went into Project Roomkey actually ended up with permanent housing and the vast majority fell through the cracks of the system. And the county couldn’t even tell UCLA where those people were anymore. So to try to snowball this effort quickly from what she’s doing right now, which is housing a dozen people, their housing an encampment somewhere else. I mean, she’s promised 17,000 People moved inside in the first year.
So scaling up is going to be really difficult. And also, the problem with with a bridge housing under Mayor Garcetti was the backdoor just certainly wasn’t there. Their goal had been that people would stay in a bridge housing for three months. I mean, we know people who have been in bridge housing for over a year. So without the affordable housing on the other side. You know, that’s just where the log jam is going to be. And I say log jam, realizing that these are human beings, who…
DN: It’s an expression, people won’t be offended, I don’t think…
KC: Well, I’m just saying, like, you know, the uncertainty surrounding the day to day life of living on the street is really, really difficult. And it’s difficult when you’re living on the street. It’s difficult when you’re in a hotel, and you don’t know how long you’re going to be in the hotel. It’s difficult to get treatment, find jobs…all the things that we want to see. I think Angelenos want to see happen for these people.
I thoroughly believe that people who live in LA are caring, compassionate people who see this as a humanitarian crisis. And they just they do want to see it done the right way, just the right way is a very hard way because it’s just not how our system is set up. Like they’re building a whole new system.
DN: You wanted to talk a little bit more about the I think what most people if they’re familiar with your work at Spec News 1, know that you’ve been reporting on the LAPD, the LA County Sheriff’s and a lot of policing issues, ties in with Black Lives Matter and advocacy movements to reform the police and all sorts of stuff. For years, you were sort of our go to reporter for that type of coverage at Streetsblog. And our we have a reporter Sahra Suleiman, who does a lot of that work, too.
So why don’t you introduce the issue and tell us what’s really exciting to you about that with where we are right now, obviously a different Sheriff than the one you covered for the most part, and an I’ll prompt you with probing questions to keep the conversation moving.
KC: That’s great. And I just want to say I really admire Sahra and enjoy her work and read her work in her thoroughness is always amazing to me. And so that’s great. You know, and I really got into talking about policing issues In 2019, with the lawsuit in East LA over the, you know, the banditos deputy gang, and you know, this crazy, it was just the craziest thing, we me and my news director at the time Scott Warren had ever read reading this complaint from they were, you know, it was coming from the deputies who said that they had been harassed beaten up, that there had been a brawl at an after work party, because they were refusing to join this group called the banditos. And so that was really the first story I did about it. And I remember walking down the hallway at Spectrum and running into Scott and he said, “stay on this story.” So many more years later, here I am. And I would also add everything that I was covering around homelessness was also feeding into my curiosity about the criminal justice system and how it was working and how it wasn’t working.
Because I was doing ride alongs with LAPD. I remember riding around Pacific Division and the head telling me, he had noticed that every time they would sweep away and encampment and tell people, they couldn’t stay there, it would just simply pop up in another place. And they didn’t want to be involved with it at all, and that they were frustrated that there was no other part of the city that was tackling the homeless crisis and really be in an ability to be there as a 24/7 response.
And I was just really fascinated by this notion that if someone commits a crime and does something wrong On the system can house them immediately no questions asked. We take them to jail.
But if someone is in a desperate situation living on the street, trying to get them indoors into housing when it’s not punishment, becomes this month years long, incredibly frustrating bureaucratic process where they need IDs and follow up and to be places at certain times. And it just seemed like we were really good at doing this one thing, and really bad at actually helping people. And like I said earlier, I mean, the solution that I think most Angelenos want, the humane solution is requiring building an entire system that has never existed before.
DN: Now in your coverage, I’m going to focus try to focus a little more on the sheriff since they have jurisdiction and have been involved in Santa Monica, obviously. About a year ago, there was sort of some sort of energy built between Phil Brock, who’s a council member and Sheriff Villanueva, obviously Sheriff ViIlanueva wave is not there anymore. So they’ve just been, obviously a presence inside the city, both in the politics and the law enforcing. But have you seen any sort of difference in how the sheriff’s are approaching any issues, be it via homelessness or community policing or anything like that, and just a couple months since we’ve changed from Villanueva to Luna?
KC: It’s a completely different paradigm. I mean, the sheriff’s department they are a paramilitary organization. So, change at the top is actually extremely powerful because everyone follows chain of command. So the difference between the personalities of Sheriff Alex Villanueva and Sheriff Robert Luna, they are vastly different. These are two men who have vastly different views of policing of the future of the department, the role that the department should play in contract cities or in the county in homelessness and all these different areas, it’s going to be completely different.
You can’t predict anything about where the department is going to go now, specifically around homelessness. I haven’t really heard the new sheriff speak very much about homelessness.
DN: And Villanueva talked about it a lot. Like he definitely saw that whether it was he was seeing that as the issue the officers needed to address because it was the biggest issue or it was just his path to reelection, it was kind of hard to tell with him because he was in front of the cameras a lot more than than Sheriff Luna.
But it was definitely more of a public focus thab it has been the past couple of months where the the focus really has shifted from policing to the Mayor’s Office of Los Angeles. And a little bit the county supervisors too, but it’s really been Karen Bass, it’s been the person that I think most people have seen talking about the issue recently.
KC: Well, Villanueva was definitely trying to tap into the frustration that he knew. And he was right. I mean, people are incredibly frustrated around the homelessness crisis, around the encampments. And they want to see improvement. And I think he thought that that would be a winning campaign strategy for him. And also a good look for the department to look like it was actually trying to tackle the crisis, and that he would be able to come in and kind of shame local leadership for not doing enough.
But you know, I spoke to those deputies, and I interviewed them, and they would run into the same problem that every single official runs into, and that is the lack of housing, affordable housing. The same thing we talked about the frustration that ultimately Mayor bass is going to run into as well is just places to move people indoors.
DN: I have sort of a goofy Alex Villanueva question that we can cut again, if you don’t want to answer it. But are you surprised he doesn’t have a gig at FoxNews yet, because we all assume that that’s what he was doing was the last couple of months of his campaign, especially when he would go on and on about how woke everybody was, is that he was really juest angling for a Fox News job. Surprised?
KC: I’m not really sure how that works. And I don’t know how interested Fox News would be in having a pungent former Sheriff Alex Villanueva because remember, he is a Democrat. So I mean, maybe there’s strength in that that he’s willing to criticize the Democratic Party.
He still gives his weekly Instagram Live. I think it’s every Wednesday. And sometimes I pop in to see what he has to say. And last time I heard he was basically telling the audience that those who are calling him to run for office once again, will not be disappointed. So I think that he has a plan.
DN: Well, that’s just warms my heart to hear. Do you have any sort of closing thoughts on this? We went a little over on our first segment.
So do you have any closing thoughts you want to talk about on or can we go into our fun segment?
KC: No, I guess not. All right.
DN: So the reason we were attracted to ask you to join us for this podcast wasn’t just because of your work in spec news one, but also because you were a Santa Monica, Daily Press reporter before that. For those of you that don’t know, the Santa Monica Daily Press is a newspaper in the city of Santa Monica that’s available free at most print editions available free at most places, and you can go to smdp.com.
That was supposed to be a joke.
I assume that anyone listening to this podcast knows what the Daily Press is.
Anyway, you worked there for years. Do you have a favorite story that pops to mind, whether it was just a lot of fun to do or had an impact or just something that sticks out to you is a really great story that you got to work on.
KC: You know, I had worked in television news before I ended up at the Santa Monica Daily Press. It’s kind of a long story, how I ended up there. But once I got there, it was my favorite job I ever had. It totally prepared me for what I’m doing now at spectrum, news one. And it was just so great to be making an impact in the community. And I’d say my favorite story is still about Jerry Lynette.
Shout out Jerry, if you’re listening, I need to call you so we can catch up.
He was living in an 88 square foot apartment. It’s about the size of a parking space. And long story short, the building was owned by NMS, which is a developer property owner, the biggest one in Santa Monica, and I was covering them quite a bit. And he had been in line for affordable housing, but for whatever reason, he his paperwork had been lost.
He and this other guy were the only tenants left in this building that was scheduled to be demolished and redeveloped by NMS. He had been going back and forth with them on the deal that they were going to cut to order to get him out of there. And I just remember taking the picture of him sitting on his bed with his little dog sitting in his lap. And the story ran. And it actually really helped his case. Last I heard, he had a much more stable situation in Santa Monica, and he’d been there since 1977. So it was just really gratifying to help someone like that be able to stay in the city he loved.
DN: What a sweet story.
KC: It’s good to do happy stories. Yeah.
DN: While I always prefer to be able to do a happy story, and people think that sometimes means that I like sugarcoat things, but I don’t think anyone I’ve ever written about has ever said that about me.
Most people again, listening to this podcast, obviously know you as a reporter. And we and most a lot of the people that know you as a reporter, so it’ll be familiar with your coverage of policing. So we have two questions here that are related. And I’ll just ask them both together: which is do you have a favorite fictional …as in you know, television book, movie, play…reporter And then do you have a favorite law enforcement officer? Again, fictional television, play, movie book, whatever.
KC: When you ask me, fictional reporter I know my entire life is based on April O’Neil from watching ninja turtles as a little kid. And it’s so funny because if the listeners don’t remember April O’Neil, she’s kind of like the sidekick who gets to hang out with the turtles and she wears this amazing yellow onesie when she has like thick hair. And I actually bought the first season for the 80s version for my son to watch. And I was dying. Damien, the very first episode…April O’Neil is on a stakeout for this lab that’s been raided and she’s waiting all night to get the story. And her crew just wants to go home and they’re like, “geez, April, we’re just over” and she’s like, “No, guys, this is the story. We got to get it.” And then she ends up you know, chasing them down into a sewer and getting caught up with the Ninja Turtles. And I was just like, “oh, this is why I am the way that I am. Wow.”
DN: Well, I’m happy it held up because I tried to show my kids an old episode of Voltron. And it was like horribly dated and ridiculously sexist towards Princess Alora. And I was like, oh my god, like halfway through the episode I was I was like, let’s just watch the modern one again.
KC: It was definitely dated. But I would say at least that first season was very of feminist in its own way. You were definitely cheering for April who was very dedicated to her job, although, you know, she kept getting kidnapped or swept, swept away on these turtle missions and not meeting her deadlines. So her news director was always…
DN: …yelling at her, right? I hope that part’s not real. That part didn’t translate over.
KC: And, oh, my favorite fictional police officer, I guess is Chase from the Paw Patrol. I’m choosing two cartoons. So that tells you how much adult TV I get to watch these days.
DN: Oh no, I remember those years. And we were talking about Lightning McQueen and Cars with with Jesse. Maybe I need to get someone older. For the next podcast that doesn’t have still have young children.
KC: Yeah, yeah, they probably have better answers.
DN: I don’t know. I think they’re great answers. I managed to skip Paw Patrol. But I certainly remember April O’Neil. Very, very clearly. So this is one again, I copped to in the pre show that we had a question that was actually a holdover from Jesse that we didn’t get to ask him, which I was going to ask you, which is based on what you know, now, and obviously, it’s a lot, what is your kid’s job going to be?
At this age, my son thought he was going to be Batman. And my daughter thought she was going to be I believe a professional wrestler.
KC: Well, Warren is five and he’s been talking about being an astronaut, and I just pray, he stays on that track. I’m like, we will buy you astronaut toys. We’re gonna watch the rocket launches we’re gonna, you know, fan this flame as hard as we can for as long as we can. Although, although this is so funny, he and his dad like to do their own newscast in the car now that I’m on the morning show. And they watch and apparently then on the way to school, my son gives Spectrum News 2 from, from the backseat.
DN: I’ll give you a warning from my son was really into planets and astronomy is at age five. Also, although he did want to also be a superhero. And what knocked him off of it was his disappointment about the treatment of Pluto. So just a warning. You might need to brace him for that when I guess the idea of something being a planet and then being told it wasn’t special enough was very upsetting. I’ve actually we read about this. It was a whole thing. We were like, what’s going on? Why is he so upset? A lot of kids apparently get very upset about Pluto.
KC: I’ll steal myself for that talk. I didn’t know it was coming.
DN: We’ll keep that for our parenting blog or parenting podcast. But I do remember that very clearly…very upset. And our last one would be. And I love asking a question like this to reporters. And it doesn’t have to be a new story that you’ve covered. But do you have a story in your life that you are unable to convince other people is real? Even though you know it is despite your despite your prowess as a storyteller?
KC: I know this is supposed to be a fun question. But this very serious answer is the deputy gang issue in the LA County Sheriff. And despite all the hearings, we’ve had testimony from actual deputies, the lawsuits, the 10s of millions of dollars in payouts, I still get the naysayers who say show me a single conviction. And until there is actual accountability for the officers, or the deputies who have participated in this kind of activity. I think that our job is reporters is always going to be difficult on that story.
DN: So I didn’t offer this to Jesse. But I told him we were going to because Jesse went way over he was really into talking about public comment, which was actually a recent topic on our San Gabriel Valley podcast…so I was excited to get into it too. But if you if you want you can ask me any of those five questions, and I will try to answer them. I’ve only thought of answers for one or two of them ahead of time. So I’m hoping if you do this, you pick one of them.
KC: Well, who’s your favorite fictional police officer?
DN: Oh, that’s actually not one I thought about but it’s an easy one for me. My family listens to musicals a lot. I don’t like musicals that much. But in 2001, I went to New York to see the BatBoy, the musical, the prequel to The Weekly World News character, BatBoy. And if people don’t know about him, he is a mutant bad child that we found in a cave who took out Osama bin Laden, and many other things. And they did a prequel musical for him. And everybody in the musical is terrible to BatBoy, although secretly, although it’s not very secret, the only person who is completely nice to him and always looking out for him and resisting the urges to kill him or locking up is the sheriff. And the whole musical is really a lot of it’s making fun of, you know, rural communities it’s making when I grew up in a rural community, so I had both thoughts both Oh, that’s funny, and also like, Hey, that’s not right. But it makes fun of rural communities makes fun of Christianity. I go to church every Sunday, and all of that, but the only person that sticks up for BatBoy and that entire musical even his family is inconsistent.
But every time he’s on the sticks up for BatBoy, the sheriff and I always appreciated that even with his fake southern accent and incompetent policing style. So the sheriff and bad boy, I don’t even think you can find copies of that boy the musical anywhere except for my CD player. I still have it but, and my daughter thinks it’s hilarious to listen to.
KC: I’ll take your word for it.
DN: Yeah, no one that I’m sure this is gonna have a flood of interest in bad boy, the musical. Anyway, that’s it for this week’s podcast. As I always say, I’ll record the outro without you. So thanks for being with us, Kate.
KC: Yeah, my pleasure. That went by fast.