Oakland Voters OK Noncitizen Voting in School Board Races, but the Measure Might Never Go Into Effect

Oakland voters say noncitizen parents or guardians of school-age children should be allowed to vote in school board elections. The issue now heads to the City Council — and after that, to the courts, which already are wrestling with a similar law in San Francisco.

Measure S, approved by 62% of the voters last Tuesday, would not immediately allow voting by non-U.S. citizens but would authorize such action by the City Council, which voted in June to place the measure on the ballot. Council members said noncitizens, including legal residents and undocumented immigrants, make up 14% of Oakland’s population and currently lack “representation in key decisions that impact their education and their lives.” About 13,000 are parents or guardians of children younger than 18.

The question now is whether the forthcoming ordinance conflicts with a long-standing provision of the California Constitution that declares, “A United States citizen 18 years of age and resident in this State may vote.”

A 2016 San Francisco ballot measure, the first in the state, allowed noncitizen parents to vote in school board elections, starting in 2018. This July, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Ulmer ordered a halt to noncitizen voting in the city, saying the constitutional provision allowed only U.S. citizens to vote and could not be overridden by a local government. But the state’s First District Court of Appeal put Ulmer’s ruling on hold while the case was on appeal and allowed noncitizens to vote for school board candidates last week.

The conservative groups that challenged San Francisco’s measure, the United States Justice Foundation and the California Public Policy Foundation, also filed suit to remove Measure S from the Oakland ballot. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Michael Markman denied their request in August, saying it was premature because the measure would merely allow the City Council to pass a voting-rights ordinance. Markman said at a hearing that he thought Ulmer was probably right in deciding the state Constitution allowed only citizens to vote, but also observed that the issue would most likely be decided by higher courts.

Attorney James V. Lacy, leader of the two groups, says he plans to file another suit, probably in December, to challenge the expected Oakland ordinance. Lacy has contended the local measures would allow citizens’ votes to be “diluted” by noncitizens. He also argued — and Ulmer agreed — that the state Constitution allows only U.S. citizens to vote.

In his ruling in July, Ulmer said the Constitution’s declaration that citizens “may vote” was intended to prohibit others from voting. If “may” was changed to “shall,” he said, all citizens would be required to vote, which is the law in some nations but not in the United States. And if the provision saying citizens “may vote” does not exclude noncitizens, as the city contends, Ulmer said it would also allow children or non-Californians to vote in local elections.

Eligibility to vote, the judge said, is a matter of “statewide concern” and is not subject to varying rules by local governments, even self-governing charter cities, which include both San Francisco and Oakland.

Appeals courts, and possibly the state Supreme Court, will have the last word on noncitizen voting. But the San Francisco case is back before Ulmer, and City Attorney David Chiu’s office is urging him to reconsider the state constitutional language.

The Constitution “does not say only citizens may vote,” and leaves the door open for greater eligibility in local elections, Deputy City Attorney James Emery wrote in a filing with Ulmer last week. “Charter cities may serve as laboratories of democracy demonstrating the benefits of noncitizen voting in local contests.”

Emery cited a 1992 state Supreme Court ruling allowing Los Angeles to provide city funds to candidates for local offices, despite a state ballot measure that prohibited public funding of political campaigns. The filing also offered appreciative statements from some noncitizen parents who had voted in San Francisco school board elections.

“For the first time in my life,” said Hwaji Shin, a lawful permanent resident and mother of a child in elementary school, “ I felt like I was a full member of the school community whose voice matters.”

Click here to read the full article at the San Francisco Chronicle

Pelosi & Kavanaugh Murder Plots Show Media Double Standard

The same news media that mischaracterized psychosis as fanaticism in the alleged plot to kill Pelosi also downplayed the assassination plot against Kavanaugh by an abortion rights fanatic.

David DePape, the suspect in an alleged assassination attempt against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, wrote a series of right-wing blog posts in recent weeks. “Many of the posts were filled with screeds against Jews, Black people, Democrats, the media and transgender people,” notes The Washington Post. “In one post, written on Oct. 19, the author urged former President Donald J. Trump to choose Tulsi Gabbard, the former Democratic congresswoman from Hawaii, as his vice-presidential candidate in 2024,” reports The New York Times. “In another,” wrote The Los Angeles Times, “he called ‘equity’ a leftist dog whistle ‘for the systematic oppression of white people’ and ‘diversity’ a ‘dog whistle for the genocide of the white race.’”

But the blog posts confirm my original reporting yesterday that DePape has been, for at least a decade, in the grip of a psychosis caused by mental illness and/or drug use. The Washington Post, to its credit, reports in the first paragraph that DePape’s blog was filled with “delusional thoughts, including that an invisible fairy attacked an acquaintance and sometimes appeared to him in the form of a bird” and that, as each post loaded, “a reader briefly glimpses an image of a person wearing a giant inflatable unicorn costume.” The New York Times acknowledged that, “mixed in with those posts were others about religion, the occult and images of fairies that the user said he had produced using an artificial intelligence imaging system,” albeit not until the 22nd paragraph.

And now the mother of DePape’s two children, Gypsy Taub, has publicly confirmed that DePape has experienced psychotic episodes. “He is mentally ill,” she told ABC7, “He has been mentally ill for a long time.” Taub said DePape disappeared for almost a year and “came back in very bad shape. He thought he was Jesus. He was constantly paranoid, thinking people were after him. And it took a good year or two to get back to, you know, being halfway normal.” However, it is not clear whether DePape’s psychosis is a result of an underlying mental illness, like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, or from the long-term use of drugs, particularly meth, which can result in psychosis and permanent changes to brain functioning. Taub’s neighbors, as I reported yesterday, said Taub herself suffered frequent bouts of paranoid psychosis and had repeatedly lied about them to the police.

Many people responded to my reporting yesterday by noting that DePape may have been psychotic but that the real problem lay with right-wing conspiracy theories. “But even if you believe he’s psychotic (which seems plausible),” wrote former New Yorker reporter James Surowiecki in response to my article, “why did his paranoid psychosis take as its object Nancy Pelosi? Because of the ubiquity of right-wing conspiracy theories and the demonization of Pelosi by right-wing media… We can certainly get rid of conspiracy theories being mainstreamed on cable TV and social media by high-profile pundits.”

But we can’t get rid of discussions of conspiracy theories because doing so would violate the First Amendment and, as I noted yesterday, psychotic people construct their delusions from whatever is in popular culture at the time to invent justifications for their actions. In 1981, a psychotic man named John Hinkley, Jr. shot President Ronald Reagan because, Hinkley said, he wanted to impress the actress Jodie Foster. Earlier this month, a man in Washington state shot two 40-something innkeepers because, he said, he heard the voice of Pope Gregory and John Paul say to him, “Are you going to let Bonny and Clyde do that to our family?”

And if mainstream news journalists are so concerned that political extremism is resulting in more violence against public officials, why did they, en masse, downplay the assassination attempt against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in June? Where The New York Times has put the alleged Pelosi assassination attempt on its front page for two days in a row, it buried the story of the Kavanaugh murder plot on page A20. Three days later, none of the Sunday morning political shows, such as NBC’s “Meet the Press,” even mentioned the assassination attempt.

Today, “Meet the Press,” focused on the Pelosi plot and framed it as overly political, making no mention whatsoever of DePape’s psychotic delusions. “The chilling and violent attack on Paul Pelosi — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s 82-year-old husband — is raising fears of more political violence,” said its host, Chuck Todd.

Click here to read the full article in Substack

San Francisco Mayor Apologizes for Saying ‘A Lot Of’ Drug Dealers are Honduran

San Francisco Mayor London Breed issued an apology Thursday for comments she made that linked Honduran immigrants to drug dealing in the city, which drew condemnation from Bay Area Latino organizations and community members.

In clips from the hourlong interview at an Oct. 5 live event with public radio station KQED-FM that began to circulate on social media this week, Breed said a large number of those arrested for dealing fentanyl are Honduran.

“There are unfortunately a lot of people who come from a particular country — come from Honduras — and a lot of the people who are dealing drugs happen to be of that ethnicity,” she said, pushing back against criticism that law enforcement was racially profiling Latinos in the Tenderloin neighborhood.

“It’s nothing ‘racial profile’ about this,” Breed said. “We all know it. It’s the reality, it’s what you see, it’s what’s out there.”

In her written apology, Breed said that while trying to explain the situation in the Tenderloin, she “failed to accurately and comprehensively discuss what is an incredibly complex situation in our City and in Central America.”

“We do have significant challenges with drug dealing in the Tenderloin, and those challenges are impacting families that live there, including immigrant Latino families and residents who are living in fear,” Breed said. “As a proud Sanctuary City, we have an obligation to provide a safe space for our immigrant families to live and thrive. That includes ending open-air drug markets and hold drug dealers, regardless of ethnicity, accountable.”

During the KQED event, Breed was asked about how officials would address drug use and the estimated 1,700 overdose deaths in the city since 2020.

The videos circulated as Latino leaders and community members were still dealing with the shock of Los Angeles city leaders’ racist comments toward Black and Indigenous people, which were brought to light in leaked recordings a week earlier.

“The comments in L.A. hurt people in the Bay Area, also,” said Lariza Dugan-Cuadra, executive director of San Francisco nonprofit Central American Resource Center of Northern California. “And then to have this thing resurface with the mayor, it kind of added insult to injury with how our community is feeling in California overall.”

Dugan-Cuadra was among the Latino leaders who sat down with Breed this week to push for an apology and to convey the community’s disappointment and hurt.

She was concerned that Breed’s comments fed the xenophobic narrative of viewing immigrant communities as criminals, drawing parallels to former President Trump’s rhetoric. Dugan-Cuadra instead asked Breed to focus on solutions and preventive measures that address drug dealing and root causes of migration to the U.S. — such as poverty — rather than ramp up criminal law enforcement.

Breed said last month that she would be “less tolerant of all the bulls— that has destroyed our city.” She and Dist. Atty. Brooke Jenkins, Breed’s pick to succeed Chesa Boudin after he was recalled, have committed to a more aggressive approach of policing and prosecuting drug dealing and property crimes.

“I think any young person with migratory status whose only option to survive is existing in an underground economy is a reflection of our society,” Dugan-Cuadra said. “Young people should have more opportunities to fulfill their dreams, and shouldn’t be excluded and criminalized.”

Dugan-Cuadra also invited Breed to visit Honduras and Central America, so she can better understand the violent, impoverished conditions Hondurans and others are fleeing from. She said the mayor has been responsive and receptive.

Breed’s apology also included a pledge to support Dugan-Cuadra’s organization, CARECEN SF, which is opening a larger office near the Tenderloin. The nonprofit provides resources for Latino and immigrant families, including legal aid and representation in immigration and criminal courts.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

S.F. is Spending $1.7 Million on One Public Toilet: ‘What are They Making it Out of — Gold?’

 Celebration for S.F.’s $1.7 million toilet canceled after backlash: “The cost is insane.”

San Francisco politicians will gather at the Noe Valley Town Square Wednesday afternoon to congratulate themselves for securing state money for a long-desired toilet in the northeast corner of the charming plaza.

Another public toilet in a city with far too few of them is excellent. But the details of this particular commode? They’re mind-boggling, maddening and encapsulate so much of what’s wrong with our city government.

The toilet — just one loo in 150 square feet of space — is projected to cost $1.7 million, about the same as a single-family home in this wildly overpriced city. And it won’t be ready for use until 2025.

Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) secured the $1.7 million from the state for the toilet after hearing “loud and clear” from the community that families needed a bathroom. The plumbing is already there, added when the plaza was constructed six years ago, but there was never money for the actual bathroom. Until Haney stepped in.

The former San Francisco supervisor said the Recreation and Parks Department told him the going rate for one public bathroom was $1.7 million so he secured the full amount, not questioning the pricetag.

“They told me $1.7 million, and I got $1.7 million,” Haney explained. “I didn’t have the option of bringing home less of the bacon when it comes to building a toilet. A half a toilet or a toilet-maybe-someday is not much use to anyone.”

True, but instead we have a toilet-maybe-in-more-than-two-years that could have paid to house a family instead. So why is a public bathroom so insanely expensive, and why does it take so long to build? A joint statement from Rec and Park and the Department of Public Works, which will work together to build this extravagant bathroom, pointed to several reasons.

For one thing, the cost to build anything in San Francisco is exorbitant. The city is the most expensive in the world to build in — even topping Tokyo, Hong Kong and New York City. We’re No. 1! Even for places to go No. 1.

Like everywhere, construction costs have risen 20% to 30% in the past couple of years due to global supply chain issues and the rising costs of fuel, labor and materials. But like always, there’s a certain preciousness to the process in San Francisco. (Just look at the years-long, ongoing quest to design and manufacture bespoke city trash cans.)

“It’s important to note that public projects and their overall cost estimates don’t just reflect the price of erecting structures,” the statement said. “They include planning, drawing, permits, reviews and public outreach.”

For a toilet? Apparently so.

An architect will draw plans for the bathroom that the city will share with the community for feedback. It will also head to the Arts Commission’s Civic Design Review committee comprised of two architects, a landscape architect and two other design professionals who, under city charter, “conduct a multi-phase review” of all city projects on public land — ranging from buildings to bathrooms to historic plaques, fences and lamps.

The web-page describing that process states the point is to ensure “that each project’s design is appropriate to its context in the urban environment, and that structures of the highest design quality reflect their civic stature.”

Sorry, kid. I know you’ve got to go, but have you considered the context of the urban environment?

The project will then head to the Rec and Park Commission and to the Board of Supervisors. According to the city’s statement, it will also be subject to review under the California Environmental Quality Act. Then, the city will put the project up for bid.

“Once we start the project, we’ll have a clearer timeline, but we expect to be able to complete the project in 2025,” the statement read.

The city said the $1.7 million estimate “is extremely rough” and budgets “for the worst-case scenario due to the onerous demands and unpredictable costs levied by PG&E,” the possibility code requirements could change during the project and in case other unexpected circumstances come up.

The city is in a legal battle with Pacific Gas and Electric Co. over the city’s claim that the utility has slowed projects and forced them to be more expensive unless they obtain electricity directly from the utility instead of the city’s Public Utilities Commission.

The bathroom will be built by unions whose workers will “earn a living wage and benefits, including paid sick time, leave and training.”

“While this isn’t the cheapest way to build, it reflects San Francisco’s values,” the statement read.

I’m a union member myself, and of course the majority of our public projects should be union built. But does a $1.7 million single bathroom really reflect San Francisco’s values? I don’t think so.

The supervisors in 2019 approved a Project Labor Agreement between the city and unions that requires union labor for all “covered projects” — but this bathroom isn’t one of them because it’s not worth $10 million and it didn’t come from bond funding.

There are other, much cheaper options. I e-mailed Tom Hardiman, executive director of the Modular Building Institute in Charlottesville, Virginia, and asked him to guess what San Francisco was spending to build one toilet in 150 square feet of space.

“I’m going to guess high, I think, and say $200,000,” he wrote back.

I seemed to nearly give him a heart attack by telling him the actual figure in a subsequent phone call.

“This is to build one public restroom?” he asked incredulously. “What are they making it out of — gold and fine Italian marble? It would be comical if it wasn’t so tragically flawed.”

He then said he’d do some research and found a cheaper option within minutes. He said Chad Kaufman, CEO of Public Restroom Company, just delivered and installed seven modular bathrooms in Los Angeles for the same price San Francisco will spend to build one. These are not Porta Potties, but instead have concrete walls with stucco exteriors and nice fixtures with plumbing.

“There will be some onsite labor which absolutely can be union,” Hardiman said, pointing to crane operators, laborers and plumbers.

And, he said, they could be delivered in eight months.

Phil Ginsburg, director of the Recreation and Parks Department, said many park systems around the country use pre-fabricated restrooms, which are much cheaper — and he hopes San Francisco becomes more politically open to them too. The department has occasionally used them in the past — including at the Redwood Grove playground in McLaren Park — and it’s unclear why one seems off the table for Noe Valley.

Click here to read the full article in the San Francisco Chronicle

New Poll Finds San Francisco Voters Are Moving Back To The Center

Mayor London Breed has only a 36% approval rating compared to 64% disapproval

According to a new poll by the San Francisco Standard published on Thursday, voters in the city have moved back towards the center in the past few years following economic toil, massive political changes, rises in crime, and a growing number of homeless in the city.

revival of tough-on-crime policies by District Attorney Brooke Jenkins has particularly won over many in San Francisco compared to prior policies put in place by recalled DA Chesa Boudin and proposed policies by her main opponent in the DA race John Hamasaki. Jenkins currently holds a 56% approval rating compared to Boudin who under 30% earlier this year in May before the recall election. Also tellingly, Jenkins is currently winning against Hamasaki and fellow opponent Joe Alioto Veronese in polls, holding a double-digit point lead, albeit with over 50% of voters still not knowing who they would vote for.

Jenkins also proved to be one of the only entities and lawmakers in the city who had above a 50% approval rating. The Standard poll showed that Mayor London Breed has only a 36% approval rating compared to 64% disapproval. The Board of Supervisors fared worse, with only 23% of citizens approving of them compared to a whopping 77% disapproval rating. The San Francisco Public School system fared low as well with a 31%-69% approval disapproval split. The only entity to come close to approval was the SFPD, with a 41%-59% split.

SF public schools were particularly shown to be complex. While 69% of citizens disapproved of how they were being run, around 3 out of every 4 parents in the city disapproved of the schools.  And these were encouraging numbers, as approval ratings had been even lower earlier this year prior to a school board recall election and subsequent reversal of many policies made under the former board.

Unsurprisingly, San Franciscans said that homelessness and crime were the top two concerns in the city. 63% of those in the city said that City Hall doesn’t know how to solve the homelessness issue, with 71% agreeing that the high number of unhoused people are making the city less safe.

Political reversals begin in SF

The new tough-on-crime prerogatives, some of which have seen judges being stubborn in going along with the new policies, such as a recent incident in which DA Jenkins tried to prosecute drug dealers for murder following drugs that they sold leading to overdoses, have also been seen as more positive. While judges in the city blocked that murder charge policy attempted by Jenkins, 69% of San Francisco citizens now approve of that policy according to the poll. Majority support was also found for forcing repeat drug offenders into treatment, a greater police presence in the city, and requirements for street vendors to have licenses.

Overall, while the poll still found many in the city to still be in favor of progressive and liberal policies that have defined the city for over half a century, commentators noted that  the city seemed to have hit a peak in those values in the 2010s when the city was coasting on a roaring tech economy. Now, with crime rising, home prices dropping, and many tech and retail companies either reducing office space or leaving the city outright, many now are beginning to shift in a different direction politically.

“The poll should not come as a surprise to anyone even remotely familiar to the situation of the city,” explained Frank Ma, a former law enforcement official who now works as a security advisor for businesses in San Francisco and cities in the Peninsula, to the Globe on Thursday. “People just got fed up. And now we have a situation where some very liberal people who are lefter than left on some issues are suddenly asking for an expansion of the police or want some people out of office because of the things they did hurting the city or causing crime to go up.”

“We were bound to hit our peak in that regard at some time, but it took a lot of crime, open drug use, and the economy to turn here to finally get people to start fighting back against the endless reforms that only kept hurting the city. I mean, we had two major recalls this year oust very-left people. Many clients I have, who are very liberal and supported people like Boudin, have even asked me about the legality of rounding up homeless people and sending them to other cities like the Florida and Texas Governors have done with illegal immigrants sending them to New York and Massachusetts. There are people I know who marched in the George Floyd rallies and called for police defunding who then had a lot of break ins and are now demanding that the SFPD hire more officers.”

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

1 killed, 3 Injured in East Oakland Shootout During Attempted Brink’s Truck Robbery

One person was killed and three were injured Friday afternoon in a shootout during the attempted robbery of a Brink’s security truck in East Oakland, police and witnesses said.

The attempted robbery occurred around 2 p.m. in the parking lot of a NAPA Auto Parts store on the 4400 block of International Boulevard and left one Brink’s employee injured at the scene and an apparent would-be robber dead, police and witnesses said. Two more people transported themselves to a hospital with injuries, including one whom police described as an innocent bystander.

As of Saturday afternoon, the wounded people who sustained gunshot wounds remained in stable condition, said a spokesperson for the Oakland Police Department.

Two people who said they witnessed the violence described the scene to The Chronicle. Robbers made their move on the Brink’s truck after one security guard entered the NAPA Auto Parts store, leaving one guard with the truck, said Rafael Barrazos, who sells used cars on International Boulevard and was walking across the bustling street near a taco truck when the shooting began.

“They waited till one of the guards was by himself,” Barrazos said. “The guns started going off right after. The way the bullets were flying I told everyone getting tacos to get down, and it felt like the bullets were going above our heads.”

When the gunfire ended, two people were lying on the ground — the person police said was killed was down besides the Brink’s truck, and the Brink’s guard went down in the roadway on International, just outside the parking lot where the truck was parked.

Barrazos said he saw an injured, shirtless man run from 44th Avenue toward the person lying next to the Brink’s truck, grab what appeared to be a gun from the victim, then jump into a white Toyota Rav-4 that fled the scene.

Oakland resident Elizabeth, who wished to be identified only by her first name, said the violence erupted as she was taking her daily walk down International between 44th and 45th avenues.

“I saw one man and then another — both with masks,” Elizabeth told The Chronicle, adding that the shooting renewed feelings of anxiety. “You can’t take your kids out when you like, you can’t put any jewelry on — it’s just gotten out of control here in our neighborhood.”

Before first responders arrived on the scene, a crowd of people tried to help the injured Brink’s worker, a scene captured on video posted on social media. A body could be seen lying next to the Brink’s truck.

Arriving officers pronounced the victim next to the truck dead at the scene, police said. The Brink’s worker was rushed to the hospital, police said. Two other men arrived to a local hospital separately, also with gunshot wounds, police added. One of those was an innocent bystander who had been struck by gunfire, police said.

At least 21 markers indicated bullet casings at the scene.

“We know that there was a white vehicle that was involved in this incident occupied by several individuals,” Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong said at the scene in a video posted by KTVU. Armstrong said the department is looking for video of the people in an attempt to identify them.

A person who answered the phone at the NAPA Auto Parts store declined to discuss the shooting and hung up.

A spokesperson for Brink’s said the company is aware of the incident and working with law enforcement but couldn’t provide any additional information. The company is a worldwide security powerhouse with more than 16,000 security vehicles. Some employees are armed with weapons to guard money and valuables during transport.

“It’s been a tough week in the city of Oakland,” Armstrong said. “We have seen several homicides this week. We ask the community to continue to help get rid of the guns that plague our community.”

The shooting marked Oakland’s 92nd homicide of the year, he said.

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

A Tax Revolt in San Francisco?

Citizen tax revolts have been waged throughout American history. Indeed, the genesis of the United States was a dispute with Great Britain over taxes. The issue came to a head when colonists in Massachusetts dressed as Native Americans and dumped English tea into Boston Harbor. Literally, the original Tea Party.

But American independence didn’t stop citizens from protesting high taxes. Shays’ Rebellion in 1786 was an armed uprising in Massachusetts in response to a debt crisis among the citizenry and in opposition to the state government’s increased efforts to collect taxes both on individuals and their trades. Many historians believe that the difficulty in suppressing the revolt under the Articles of Confederation provided significant motivation to form a more powerful central government.

While the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788 did in fact provide stronger federal authority, it didn’t prevent tax revolts. The Whiskey Rebellion, a fierce revolt against the new tax on distilled spirits imposed shortly after the formation of the federal government, was an early test of George Washington’s presidency.

Fast forward to more modern times. California’s own Proposition 13, passed in a landslide election in 1978, initiated the modern tax revolt. And, in an echo of 1776, a new Tea Party movement began in 2009 with a call for lower taxes, a reduction of the national debt, and less government spending. The movement launched the political careers of several members of Congress, many of whom are still serving.

Today’s media likes to portray those of us associated with taxpayer advocacy as ultra-conservative. But in a surprising development, there is a nascent “tax revolt” in the Castro District of San Francisco — whose population, by any objective standard, is the polar opposite of “conservative.”

According to an article by Jessica Flores in the San Francisco Chronicle, business owners in the Castro have repeatedly complained to city officials about the damage that homeless people have inflicted in the neighborhood, only to have the city fail to address the problem.

In response to the indifference of city officials, the Castro Merchants Association sent a letter to city officials urging them to take action on behalf of the beleaguered neighborhood. The letter described the usual problems associated with California’s horrific homeless problem: Vandalized storefronts, open drug use, business owners and customers, not to mention the “psychotic episodes.”

Now merchants say the situation has gotten so bad that they’re threatening to possibly stop paying city taxes and fees. “If the city can’t provide the basic services for them to become a successful business, then what are we paying for?” a leader of the association told The Chronicle. “You can’t have a vibrant, successful business corridor when you have people passed out high on drugs, littering your sidewalk. These people need to get help.”

This threat to withhold taxes and fees may not be on the same level as the violent Whiskey Rebellion or the political sea change of Prop. 13. But it does reflect a problem more pronounced in California than almost anywhere else in America: Not getting the services we pay for.  Is it really so surprising that all citizens simply want services commensurate with the taxes they pay? In fact, complaints about California’s high tax burden often take a back seat to the fact that we pay a lot and get so little.

Click here to read the full article at OC Register

Appeals Court Allows Noncitizens to Again Vote in San Francisco School Board Elections

A California appeals court decision will effectively allow non-U.S. citizens to vote in San Francisco school board elections in November, despite a court ruling earlier this year that struck down the local law as unconstitutional.

California Superior Court Judge Richard Ulmer struck down the city’s ordinance allowing noncitizens to vote on July 29. However, the First District Court of Appeal in August granted a request by the city for a stay of the decision.

The appellate court then denied on Sept. 9 a request to expedite Ulmer’s ruling against San Francisco’s noncitizen voting law in time for the General Election.

“The constitutional challenges … are significant ones that are entitled to deliberate consideration,” according to the appeals court decision. However, the court “decline[s] to order an injunction. No extensions of time will be granted absent a showing of exceptional good cause.”

This means noncitizens can cast ballots in the Nov. 8 election, according to James V. Lacy, an attorney who filed a lawsuit against the San Francisco ordinance on behalf of conservative groups in March 2022.

Lacy told The Epoch Times that the procedural delay will harm election integrity and allow the counting of votes that a judge has already ruled are illegal.

“It puts a cloud on the election,” he said on Sept. 13. “At a time of very high skepticism in the general public about the integrity of our elections, what the court has basically done is undermining the credibility and the vote of the San Francisco election.”

San Francisco voters approved the ordinance that appeared as Proposition N on the 2016 ballot, and the law was set to expire on Dec. 31, 2022, until the city extended it indefinitely last year. Since it went into effect, noncitizens have been allowed to vote in at least four local elections, according to court documents.

According to deputy city attorneys, noncitizens may only vote in school board elections and are not given an opportunity to vote for any other office.

The underlying idea was to give noncitizen parents a say in who is elected to school boards but “the problem is that it is illegal,” Lacy told California Insider host Siyamak Khorrami in an Aug. 24 episode. “It’s alarming that this ballot initiative even got on the ballot.”

Lacy contends that voting is a fundamental right of citizens only, and a cornerstone of democracy that should not be “tinkered with.”

The California Constitution clearly states that only U.S. citizens are allowed to vote in state and local elections, Lacy told California Insider at the time.

According to the constitution, “A United States citizen 18 years of age and resident in this State may vote.” However, attorneys for the city argued the “may vote” language doesn’t prohibit a local government to allow others to vote.

In his July 29 ruling, Judge Ulmer said that based on the same flawed logic, the city could argue that “children under 18 and residents of other states ‘may also’ vote in California elections, which our Constitution does not allow.”

He said the constitution uses the words “may vote” for good reason.

“Had it instead used the mandatory word ‘shall’ … resident citizens of age would be legally required to vote. Election laws in many nations make voting mandatory, but not the United States,” Ulmer said.

Catherine Engelbrecht of True the Vote, a national election integrity watchdog group, denounced the appellate court’s decision to deny the request for expedition.

“Name any other country in the world that would allow noncitizens to vote in their country’s elections. There isn’t one,” Engelbrecht told The Epoch Times on Sept. 13.

Click here to read the full story at the Epoch Times

New Court Order Means Noncitizen Parents Can Vote in Nov. 8 Election for San Francisco School Board

Noncitizen parents will be allowed to vote in the Nov. 8 election for school board in San Francisco after a state appeals court rejected opponents’ request to decide a case about the legality of the city’s voting ordinance before then.

Conservative activists behind a lawsuit challenging the ordinance had asked the court to expedite its review of the case and, in the meantime, grant an immediate injunction to block the city from providing ballots to noncitizens. But the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco rejected both requests in an order Thursday.

The three-member appeals panel noted, in its brief order, that opponents of the ordinance allowed “four elections to take place with noncitizen voting before filing the instant lawsuit.”

But the fate of San Francisco’s ordinance still hangs by a thread. The ordinance allows noncitizens — including undocumented immigrants and legal residents — to vote for school board candidates if they are a parent or guardian of a school-age child and are not in prison or on parole for a felony conviction.

In August, a Superior Court judge struck down the ordinance and said only U.S. citizens are permitted to vote. Conservative groups have cited a provision in the California Constitution that declares, “A United States citizen 18 years of age and resident in this State may vote.”

San Francisco challenged that ruling to the First District Court of Appeal, which restored noncitizen voting, at least for now. The appeals court granted the city’s request for a stay to set aside the judge’s ruling and leave the ordinance in effect while the case is on appeal. The justices said opponents of the law had not shown they would suffer “irreparable damage in their business or profession” if the law remained in effect during the appeal.

City voters approved the ordinance, the first of its kind in the state, with Proposition N in 2016. The law took effect in 2018, and was extended indefinitely by the Board of Supervisors in 2021.

The lead plaintiff in the case, James V. Lacy, said in a statement Friday that the Court of Appeal’s decision to not expedite its review of the case would likely result in noncitizens casting ballots that “will unconstitutionally dilute the voting power of all citizen voters, including those of ethnic minority groups.”

Noncitizen voter turnout has been low in past elections, possibly due to fears about sharing their identities with the government. Election officials said noncitizen voters accounted for 238 of the 180,000 ballots cast in the February election that recalled three school board members from office.

Attorneys for San Francisco contend the provision in the California Constitution stating that citizens “may vote” does not prevent a local government from allowing noncitizens to vote.

Click here to read the full article at the SF Chronicle

Oakland Sued Over Ballot Measure to Allow Noncitizen Voting

Lawsuit says judge struck down similar San Francisco law

A judge’s recent ruling that a San Francisco law allowing noncitizens to vote in school board elections is unconstitutional threatens a similar plan in Oakland, as well as efforts in other cities like San Jose.

The same organizations and law firm that won their case against San Francisco’s 2016 law sued Oakland officials Aug. 16 to keep their proposed measure off the November ballot.

“Oakland’s noncitizen voting measure should be removed from the ballot because it will be a waste of public resources to spend money … to submit a measure to voters that can never be enacted,” the complaint said. “Allowing a vote on an unconstitutional measure will undermine the integrity of the initiative process.”

Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker said the city has yet to be served with the complaint and could not comment.

Oakland City Councilman Dan Kalb, who is leading the effort to get the measure on the ballot, believes it is legally sound because it would not directly extend voting rights to noncitizens, but allow the city to do so if it is not prohibited by state law.

“There’s no legal basis for their lawsuit,” Kalb said.

In January, the San Jose City Council voted to study the possibility of letting noncitizens vote in municipal elections, but they weren’t pressing to get a measure on the November 8 ballot.

San Francisco voters extended voting rights to noncitizens – both legal and unauthorized residents – to cast ballots in school board elections in 2016, and the Board of Supervisors extended the law indefinitely in 2021.

The conservative nonprofits United States Justice Foundation, based in Phoenix, and the California Public Policy Foundation in Laguna Niguel filed suit, arguing the provision was unconstitutional.

In a July 29 ruling, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard B. Ulmer, Jr. agreed, citing the California Constitution stating that only “A United States citizen 18 years of age and resident in this state may vote.” Ulmer also noted that several sections of the Elections Code say voters must be U.S. citizens.

Ulmer rejected the city’s argument that the state constitution’s “may vote” language isn’t restrictive.

“By the same logic, children under 18 and residents of other states ‘may also’ vote in California elections, which our constitution does not allow,” Ulmer wrote, adding that had the constitution said “shall vote,” it would have made voting mandatory in the state.

Ulmer’s ruling came just days after the New York Supreme Court justice struck down a New York City law passed in November that would have let 800,000 noncitizens who are permanent legal residents or authorized to work vote in municipal elections, citing similar barriers in the state constitution.

On Aug. 12, Ulmer also rejected San Francisco’s request to stay his ruling while the city appeals, saying he disagreed with the city’s contention that the case presented “difficult questions of law.”

“This is not a difficult or close question,” Ulmer wrote.

The Oakland lawsuit argues that the city’s voters have “a constitutional right in avoiding the vote dilution that flows from extending voting privileges to those not authorized to vote in the state.”

James V. Lacy, the lawyer representing the organizations that sued over the measure, argued it would benefit Asians, Hispanics and Whites who have larger shares of noncitizens among them at the expense of Oakland’s nearly one in four Black residents. But Kalb said the city is home to a large number of noncitizen African immigrants as well.

There is a history of noncitizen voting in the United States. New York allowed it for school elections until 2000. Advocates for the Oakland measure said noncitizens could vote in the United States until 1926. Sin Yen, spokeswoman for Chinese for Affirmative Action, which led the coalition that campaigned for San Francisco’s law, said noncitizen voting efforts are also afoot in Santa Ana, New York, Boston and Chicago.

Advocates argue that immigrant parents of kids in city schools shouldn’t be denied a voice in their governance just because they aren’t citizens. Oakland estimates that 13,000 of 230,000 voting-age residents are noncitizens of various ethnic backgrounds, including Hispanic, African and Asian.

“If you’re a parent or legal guardian of children under 18, you should be able to decide who runs the schools,” Kalb said. “It seems so obvious, like such a no-brainer. It’s sad there are some people who don’t want that to happen.”

Critics say they’re not anti-immigrant but that extending the vote to noncitizens unfairly benefits foreigners at the expense of the country’s own citizens.

“The purpose of our lawsuit is not to denigrate noncitizen rights in the state – noncitizens have all kinds of rights,” Lacy said. “But the idea of voting is something completely different. If you talk to a general person in the state about what is the qualification for voting, the general feeling is, well, you have to be a citizen.”

Click here to read that the full article at the Mercury News