Blue-state California now harassing journalists

Let’s assume, hypothetically, that an independent journalist working in Washington somehow obtained a confidential FBI report on the death of a prominent Trump administration official that described its lurid circumstances, including the presence of a woman not his wife and the use of illegal drugs that caused, or at least contributed to, his demise.

Let’s also assume that the Justice Department responded to the disclosure by raiding the journalist’s home and confiscating computers and other tools of his trade, hoping to learn who leaked the report.

Democratic politicians and civil libertarians would erupt in outrage at a heavy-handed government act intended to discourage journalists from delving into areas that officialdom considered off-limits.

So where is that outrage about the San Francisco Police Department’s May 10 assault on journalist Bryan Carmody, who had obtained a police report about the death of San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi under exactly those unbecoming circumstances?

Carmody sold the information to three San Francisco television stations, which is how freelance journalists make their livings, and it obviously tarnished the image of Adachi, who had been something of a heroic figure to those in the city’s left-leaning political culture.

They assumed that someone in the police department had leaked the report to Carmody to damage Adachi’s reputation in retaliation for his many battles with cops in court.

Whatever the motive, no one disputes the accuracy of the report. However, police were under political pressure to find the leaker and felt justified in conducting a paramilitary raid on Carmody’s homethe kind usually associated with gun-toting suspects.

In the aftermath, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, among others, contended that it was fully justified. She said police “went through the appropriate legal process to request a search warrant, which was approved by two judges.”

More that a week later, after the state’s news media had condemned the action, Breed backtracked a little. She said that although she wanted a “thorough investigation” into the leak, “I am not okay with police raids on reporters. We need to do better.”

“However,” she added, “two judges issued the search warrant, and I have to believe that the judges’ decision was legal and warranted, and therefore so was the search. Whether or not the search was legal, warranted and appropriate, however, is another question…. And the more we learn, the less appropriate it looks to me.”

It was the sort of wishy-washy, have-it-both-ways positioning that makes ordinary citizens despise politicians.

Fortunately, not all city officials were as ambivalent. City Supervisors Hillary Ronen, Aaron Peskin and Matt Haney criticized the raid, the latter calling it a “direct attack” on journalists. District Attorney George Gascón was also critical.

What happened to Carmody is reminiscent of what happened when UC Berkeley’s Investigative Reporting Program used California’s Public Records Act to obtain nearly 12,000 names of law enforcement officers or applicants who had committed crimes ranging from shoplifting to murder.

Those convictions themselves are matters of public record, and the compilation came via a PRA request from the Commission on Police Officer Standards and Training (POST).

Although a new law requires records of police misconduct to be made public, state Attorney General Xavier Becerra threatened legal, or even criminal, action against the Investigative Reporting Program.

Becerra demanded that the records be returned or destroyed, saying they shouldn’t have been released, and warned that “unauthorized receipt or possession” of the data is a misdemeanor.

We’ve come to expect harassment and even intimidation of journalists in places like Vladimir Putin’s Russia or Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuela, but in supposedly enlightened and liberal California?

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Where does California’s cannabis tax money go?

Drug abuse prevention, public safety, protecting the environment, economic development — these were some of the visionary promises that legalized cannabis would pay for.

Now, 1 1/2 years after the start of legal sales, the lofty goals of Prop. 64 remain only partially fulfilled, deferring the dream of funding major new social programs.

In order to collect the $1 billion a year in state tax revenue promised by backers of the initiative, plus millions of dollars more for cities and counties, California needs to sell at least $7 billion worth of weed. Last year, $2.5 billion was sold.

Hampered by a slow start and strict rules required by the initiative, the state has put a regulatory structure in place. But much else is still on the drawing board. …

Click here to read the full article from the Mercury News

The high cost of low-level crime in the San Francisco

San Francisco is the nation’s leader in property crime. Burglary, larceny, shoplifting, and vandalism are included under this ugly umbrella. The rate of car break-ins is particularly striking: in 2017 over 30,000 reports were filed, and the current average is 51 per day. Other low-level offenses, including drug dealing, street harassment, encampments, indecent exposure, public intoxication, simple assault, and disorderly conduct are also rampant.

Many in law enforcement blame the crime wave on Proposition 47, which in 2014 downgraded possession of illegal narcotics for personal use and theft of anything under $950 in value from felonies to misdemeanors. Anti-incarceration advocates disagree with that argument, but theft is indisputably booming, and narcotics activity is exploding on sidewalks, parks, and playgrounds. When compounded with other troubles for which the city is now infamous (human feces, filth, and homelessness, which is up 17 percent since 2017), San Franciscans find themselves surrounded by squalor and disorder.

“A lot of people are ready to leave because the crimes are causing depression,” says Susan Dyer Reynolds, editor-in-chief of the Marina Times, an independent community newspaper. “Navigation centers” for the homeless, says Reynolds, “are not sober facilities, and people steal and break into cars to feed their habits. Crime will go up. We know this.”

Property and other supposedly low-level crimes are intensifying the destruction of the retail market. Landmark Mission District stores are shuttering, citing theft and lack of security. In April, CVS closed two pharmacies that had been ravaged by constant shoplifting. Mom-and-pop businesses, wracked by so-called minor losses, find it impossible to survive. Empty storefronts dot once-vibrant neighborhoods.

“Property and low-level crimes shrink the space for everyday people and enlarge them for the people committing them,” says Nancy Tung, a criminal prosecutor for two decades, who is running for district attorney in the 2019 election. “If we continue down this path, we will see more people leave San Francisco.” Tung will face a competitive field of opponents, including Deputy Public Defender Chesa Boudin, a socialist and the son of two convicted Weather Underground murderers, who wants to reduce criminal sentences. Keeping people out of jail is the new social-justice battle; in March, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled that San Francisco’s bail policy violates the rights of poor defendants and brings no public benefit.

Meantime, the poor bear the brunt of low-level and property crimes. “In the Tenderloin we have vulnerable populations—people of color, the most children, the second-highest concentration of elders, and they are held hostage by drug dealers and theft, and the city tells them these crimes are not that bad,” says Tung. “We are failing to protect them. The police do a good job, because the criminals are caught, only to be released back on the streets over and over.”

David Young is board president of his building, located in the South of Market neighborhood. In a recent six-month period, four windows were smashed by vandals, and replacement costs are huge. “The everyday wear and tear on your psyche gets to you,” says Young. “When we walk out the door, we know that there is a 100 percent chance we’ll see someone on drugs, in various states of undress, blood on sidewalks, and discarded sharps. These are crimes no one in city hall seems to care about. When you say something about it, you’re called a fascist.”

Until recently, Young says, San Francisco was an amazing place to live. “Now people look at the city as an abscess,” he says. “The cost of housing compared to the quality of life is way off. Everyone is talking about it. Crime has been ignored for so long, and it’s gotten so huge. Serial repeat offenders have no problem making bail, especially drug dealers, as they see it as the cost of doing business.”

Some citizens are attempting to fight back. Frank Noto cofounded Stop Crime: Neighborhood for Criminal Justice Accountability after an onslaught of break-ins. Neighbors had come together for an art project, which drew crowds—but also crime rings. First tourists’ cars were hit, then residents’ cars, and then homes. So the group started a court-watch program. They attended hearings and observed decisions, and they noted a casual judicial approach to these cases. Their presence didn’t go unnoticed. Judges know that they’re being scrutinized; one actually recused himself. “We have to take a stand,” says Noto. “We talked to one guy, an electrician, who’s been burglarized six times, and all of his tools have been stolen. All we want is for the DA and judges to take this seriously.”

As for the San Francisco Police, they’re doing their best. “It looks like hell here, but we are getting those people,” says San Francisco Police Department Captain Carl Fabbri, who helms the Tenderloin police station. “In our district, robberies are down 17 percent, burglaries are down 28 percent, and auto break-ins are down 26 percent. These results don’t just happen. We’re getting the people off the streets even for two days. When they’re in jail, we see an impact.”

The community benefits when criminals are incapacitated by being locked up, but Fabbri, like Tung and Noto, thinks that low-level criminals are released too quickly. “We could be keeping them and be giving services while they’re in jail,” says Fabbri. “It could really be effective. We need changes in the law and policies, to amend Proposition 47 and strengthen quality-of-life laws.” Bail, too, should remain in place. “There is so much support of the police here, more than you’d think,” says Fabbri. “Social media has turned the tide. If you follow what we’re doing, you can see the difference we are making.”

San Francisco’s lure persists. “There are more people from different parts of the world coming here to build a life all the time,” says Young. “It’s unquestionably a great place for opportunity, and culturally what we have is incredible. But we’re not solving our problems when we pretend low-level crimes aren’t important.” Committed residents are digging in, but if the city doesn’t start changing its approach, how long will they last?

Erica Sandberg is a widely published consumer-finance reporter based in San Francisco and the author of Expecting Money: The Essential Financial Plan for New and Growing Families. As a community advocate, she focuses on homelessness and crime and safety issues.

This article was originally published by City Journal Online

California lawmakers approve bill to give workers full pay for family leave

The California State Assembly on Thursday passed a bill that would give workers full wages when out on family leave. 

Lawmakers voted 50-3, sending the bill to the state Senate. The legislation would give workers in the state 100 percent of their wages when on family leave, rather than the program’s current 60 or 70 percent.

Family leave in the state includes taking time off to care for a seriously ill family member or to spend time with a child within one year of its birth or placement in a family.

The law currently allows for up to six weeks of partial pay for employees who take time off for family reasons. It also has a maximum wage replacement rate of $1,252 per week. …

Click here to read the full article from The Hill

Berkeley Faculty Senate Fights Against Faculty Housing

The need for less expensive housing in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley has been so plain for so long that many of those on the outside of California looking in wonder why local governments, developers and voters can’t get on the same page and get things done. A January story in the New York Times about the unexpected backlash to San Jose Unified’s attempts to prevent an exodus of teachers by offering subsidized housing reflected this sense of puzzlement.

But a story unfolding at the University of California’s Berkeley campus shows the complexity and difficulty of adding housing in urban areas of the Golden State. Housing development is seen by some communities and interest groups as a zero-sum game – if one side wins, then the other side or sides must have lost.

To address a lack of affordable housing that UC Berkeley says has made it difficult to attract and retain professors, Chancellor Carol Christ last year launched an aggressive push to replace a four-story campus parking building with 350 vehicle spaces with a $126 million complex that included 150 faculty apartments, 170 parking spots and a relatively small academic building.

But the plan to tear down the Upper Hearst parking building has faced steadily increasing criticism from faculty members. Their concern is that building the project would add to the heavy debt load borne by the university because of the $474 million cost of recent stadium renovations and the construction of a new student athletic center.

Yet coverage by the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this month of the Berkeley faculty Senate’s 174-69 vote asking Christ to suspend the project noted that the most pitched criticisms of the proposal came from engineering faculty members who stood to lose their access to convenient parking. Their criticism of the project continued even after Christ presented documents that she said showed the developer and property manager bore the financial risks if the project had cost overruns or other problems – not the university.

City says campus minimized enrollment growth

Meanwhile, a new front in this fight emerged in late April when the Berkeley City Council voted to sue UC Berkeley and the UC system over the apartment complex – even though city leaders praised Christ for seeking to add on-campus housing.

Council members cited planning documents previously filed with the city under which the university forecast it would have a student enrollment of 33,450 by 2020. Instead, as of January, enrollment already stood at about 41,000 – more than 25 percent higher than what UC officials had predicted.

Since under state law, the UC campus doesn’t pay local property taxes, city leaders say Berkeley taxpayers are the ones who are saddled with the cost of this fast growth.

This enrollment spurt has led to “increasing burdens on our streets, police and fire services,” Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin said in a news release.

But Christ has been conciliatory to city officials, suggesting the university sees a path to addressing City Hall’s concerns about campus enrollment growth.

Yet the Berkeley chancellor isn’t deferring to the faculty Senate. She’s moved ahead with plans to tear down the Upper Hearst parking structure. The building could be closed next month, and construction work could begin this September, according to stories in the Daily Californian student newspaper. UC Berkeley officials hope the new complex can be finished by summer 2021.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

President Trump Doing California a Bullet Train Favor

At last count, California’s Democratic political leadership had filed four dozen lawsuits against President Donald Trump’s administration, reflecting differences on policies large and small.

For the most part, California’s legal allegations have been on target. However, Trump is on solid legal and logical ground in the latest conflict over the state’s disastrous foray into high-speed rail transportation.

Nine years ago, the Obama administration gave the state a $3.5 billion grant to finance a big share of the initial bullet train segment, more than 100 miles of track from a point north of Fresno to the outskirts of Bakersfield.

The federal money was to be matched by state funds from a $9.95 billion bond issue passed by California voters in 2008 and the San Joaquin Valley stretch was to be completed by 2017. Later, before Trump became president, the feds gave California an extension to 2022, but only tiny portions have been built.

Late last year, the state’s auditor, Elaine Howle, told the Legislature that meeting the 2022 deadline would be nearly impossible, citing the High-Speed Rail Authority’s “flawed decision making regarding the start of high-speed rail system construction in the Central Valley and its ongoing poor contract management for a wide range of high-value contracts.” Howle said the problems “have contributed to billions of dollars in cost overruns for completing the system.”

A couple of months later, Gavin Newsom succeeded bullet-train booster Jerry Brown as governor and told the Legislature in his first State of the State address, “Let’s be real. The project as currently planned would cost too much and take too long. There’s been too little oversight and not enough transparency. Right now, there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to L.A.”

He said he would concentrate on finishing the San Joaquin Valley segment and extending it on both ends to piece together a three-system pathway for traveling between San Francisco and Bakersfield.

After Newsom’s address, President Donald Trump declared on Twitter: “California has been forced to cancel the massive bullet train project after having spent and wasted many billions of dollars. They owe the federal government three and a half billion dollars. We want that money back now. Whole project is a ‘green’ disaster!”

Last week, the Federal Railroad Administration, in a 25-page letter, formally rescinded about $1 billion dollars not yet given to California and hinted again that it would claw back the other $2.5 billion.

“It is now clear that California has no foreseeable plans, nor the capability, to pursue that statewide High-Speed Rail System as originally proposed,” wrote Ronald Batory, the federal railroad administrator, adding that the state “is chronically behind in project construction activities and has not been able to correct or mitigate its deficiencies.”

“The Trump administration is trying to exact political retribution on our state,” Newsom responded in a statement. “This is California’s money, appropriated by Congress, and we will vigorously defend it in court.”

That’s not really true. The money was part of an overall appropriation by Congress for rail projects and California was given a piece of it by the Obama administration under a contract.

It has not met its contractual obligations and cannot, as Howle said late last year, meet the 2022 deadline due to poor management during Jerry Brown’s administration.

The bullet train utterly lacks a rational purpose, has been ill-managed from the onset and is a black financial hole. If the Trumpies strangle it, they would be doing California a big favor.

This article was originally published by CalMatters

California DMV gave incorrect Real ID to an immigrant with temporary legal status

An immigrant with temporary legal status in California has received an incorrect Real ID from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, raising concerns about the department’s ability to process the enhanced identification cards.

Documents obtained by The Sacramento Bee show the individual received the card with an expiration date that would have allowed the person to stay in the United States four years beyond the immigrant’s legal residency.

According to a person familiar with the matter, the individual was a DACA recipient – someone who was unlawfully brought into the United States as a child and given legal status through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. …

Click here to read the full article from the Modesto Bee

What’s Blocking Housing Reform? Special Interests or Public Opposition?

The belief that California has a profound housing crisis took hold in the state’s media and political establishments in recent years after Census Bureau statistics showed the Golden State had the highest effective rate of poverty once cost of living was included.

The view was amplified by stories about four-hour commutes forced by housing costs and about shocking numbers of poor college students who struggled to pay for food.

That’s why the decision last week by state Senate Appropriations Chairman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, to kill Senate Bill 50 – the latest attempt to spur housing construction by limiting local control of approvals 
– came as a surprise to many. That included the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco. His push to ease rules to allow four-to-five-story apartment buildings near public transit centers and to allow construction of such units in many zones previously reserved for single-family homes had won support from not just developers but construction labor unions, several large-city Democratic mayors and some activist groups. Many were skeptics of Wiener’s and Gov. Jerry Brown’s previous attempts to limit local control.

Stories about Portantino’s decision focused on the fact that leaders of cities in his district, starting with Pasadena, had been vociferous opponents of Senate Bill 50. Reports also focused on the formidable influence of environmental groups, which prefer strict zoning rules to give them more clout to block development.

These arguments are common. In August 2016, when Brown’s attempt to sharply streamline the approval process for housing projects died in the Legislature, Shamus Roller, executive director of Housing California, blasted “the political gamesmanship of powerful interests.”

Californians ‘must be convinced of benefits’ of adding housing

But another view is that then-state Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor knew what he was talking about in March 2017 when he issued a report on the failure of local governments to meet housing mandates that said major change was unlikely “unless Californians are convinced of the benefits of more home building.” Instead of seeing the failure of housing reforms as a result of special-interest machinations, Taylor argued that elected leaders who backed such measures hadn’t cultivated the public support necessary to enact major changes.

Taylor’s thesis was supported by a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll of Californians released in October that found little belief that the housing crisis was due to a lack of building. It was the sixth-most cited reason, falling far behind the top two: the lack of rent control in much of the state and inadequate “affordable housing” programs. Two-thirds of those surveyed supported local control of housing approvals even if cities or counties weren’t meeting state mandates for new housing construction.

Still, Wiener said he wasn’t daunted by Portantino’s decision. He said he would bring another housing reform measure to the state Senate in 2020. The former San Francisco supervisor, a Harvard law graduate, also said he thought Senate Bill 50 had a chance of being resurrected this summer, even though appropriation chairs of the Senate and Assembly have a long history of making their decisions stick.

“We’re either serious about solving this crisis, or we aren’t,” he told reporters in Sacramento last week. “At some point, we will need to make the hard political choices necessary for California to have a bright housing future.”

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

High-Speed Rail Construction Continues as California Sues Trump

California’s high-speed rail agency remains determined to complete about 119 miles of bullet-train construction in the central San Joaquin Valley, even as a confrontation with the Trump administration over promised federal funds escalates into a lawsuit.

“We are looking for a ramp-up in activity for construction,” said Tom Richards, vice chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, adding that he expects the pace of work to accelerate this summer. Richards, a Fresno businessman, said Tuesday at the agency board’s meeting in Sacramento that the state remains mindful of “the requirement to abide by all of the commitments we have” under a pair of federal grant agreements dating to 2010 and 2011 for about $3.5 billion to support engineering and construction in the Valley.

Tuesday’s board meeting came on the heels of California filing suit challenging the Federal Railroad Administration’s termination of the grant agreements. …

Click here to read the full article from the Fresno Bee

San Francisco Homeless Population Rises 17% in Two Years

San Francisco continues to struggle with homelessness, with a population count revealing last week that the local homeless population had risen by 17% since 2017 — though youth and veteran homelessness had dropped.

Many cities across the U.S. have struggled with rising homelessness in recent years, partly due to the pressure of rising housing costs, and the social devastation of the opioid epidemic. However, in California the problem is compounded by the presence of warmer weather and the availability of generous welfare benefits, both of which tend to attract transients from other parts of the country. Unscrupulous drug treatment clinics have also exploited the state’s health insurance system, luring addicts to receive treatment and kicking them out when the state insurance money runs out.

A news release from the office of San Francisco Mayor London Breed stated:

Every two years, San Francisco is required to conduct a homelessness Point-in-Time Count by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The HUD count, which was conducted on January 24, 2019, counted 8,011 homeless people, both sheltered and unsheltered, in San Francisco. The 2017 HUD count recorded 6,858 people. The increase in unsheltered people was driven largely by people living in vehicles, accounting for 68% of the increase in unsheltered people. There was also an increase in sheltered residents, resulting from the investments the City has made to add shelter beds.

The mayor pledged $5 million in additional spending on the problem.

Los Angeles has also struggled with homelessness — so much so that Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has struggled to deal with the problem, is widely considered to have abandoned plans for a presidential run because of the issue. He has pledged to end street homelessness by 2028, which is also the year that the city is due to host the summer Olympics. The Los Angeles Times notes that the city is due to release its own homeless count by the end of May.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California