California Squashes Its Young

MillennialsIn this era of anti-Trump resistance, many progressives see California as a model of enlightenment. The Golden State’s post-2010 recovery has won plaudits in the progressive press from the New York Times’s Paul Krugman, among others. Yet if one looks at the effects of the state’s policies on key Democratic constituencies — millennials, minorities and the poor — the picture is dismal. A recent United Way study found that close to one-third of state residents can barely pay their bills, largely due to housing costs. When adjusted for these costs, California leads all states — even historically poor Mississippi — in the percentage of its people living in poverty.

California is home to 77 of the country’s 297 most “economically challenged” cities, based on poverty and unemployment levels. The population of these cities totals more than 12 million. In his new book on the nation’s urban crisis, author Richard Florida ranks three California metropolitan areas — Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego — among the five most unequal in the nation. California, with housing prices 230 percent above the national average, is home to many of the nation’s most unaffordable urban areas, including not only the predictably expensive large metros but also smaller cities such as Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo. Unsurprisingly, the state’s middle class is disappearing the fastest of any state.

California’s young population is particularly challenged. As we spell out in our new report from Chapman University and the California Association of Realtors, California has the third-lowest percentage of people aged 25 to 34 who own their own homes—only New York and Hawaii’s are lower. In San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego, the 25-to-34 homeownership rates range from 19.6 percent to 22.6 percent—40 percent or more below the national average.

No big surprise, then, that California’s millennials are more likely to stay at home with Mom and Dad into their thirties. Approximately 47 percent of Americans aged 18 to 34 lived with parents or other relatives in 2015, according to the American Community Survey — but in California, the figure is 54 percent. California’s younger generation, particularly in the cities, seems increasingly destined to live as renters.

The biggest losers from California’s housing crisis are, ironically, the very people whom progressives claim to care about most: the poor and minorities, who also constitute most millennials. Hispanics, now approaching a majority of the state’s population, account for 43 percent of the 25-to-34 cohort. Rates of homeownership for African-American and Hispanic Californians have dropped at four times the rate of Asians and non-Hispanic whites in the last 10 years, while minority homeownership in the Golden State now lags most of the country, notably Texas and the southeast.

Much of this can be traced to California’s long-standing bias against suburban development. Reducing greenhouse-gas emissions remains an obsession. But unless the rest of the country (or the world) adopts California’s strict emissions rules, the state’s regulations are likely to have little or no impact on climate change. Recently passed legislation will make things worse by imposing even more stringent regulations on greenhouse gases, mandating a 40 percent cut from 1990 levels by 2030. This represents the ratcheting up of a regulatory regime that will slow California’s already-torpid rate of issuing building permits, which is well below the national average.

California’s housing policies pose a profound long-term threat to the state’s social stability and economic viability. The state has seen a net loss of about 1.7 million domestic migrants since 2000. After slowing during the Great Recession and its aftermath, out-migration is again growing, even in the booming Bay Area. Some 29,000 more people left the Bay Area than arrived in 2016. The San Francisco metropolitan area saw net migration plunge from plus-15,000 in 2013 to minus-12,000 three years later.

Contrary to some reports, the people leaving California are not predominantly poor and uneducated. IRS data show that California’s outmigration between 2013 and 2014 was concentrated among middle-aged people with higher average incomes than households that stayed in California or moved there. This trend contrasts dramatically with Texas, arguably the state’s strongest economic competitor.

Here again, new policies will only make things worse. The Bay Area’s 2040 regional plan calls for concentrating 75 percent of new housing development on barely 5 percent of the region’s developed land mass. One alternative plan assumes that 78 percent of new housing in the Bay Area would be multi-family and 22 percent single-family (detached and attached). The regional Air Quality Agency has drawn up intrusive plans, seeking to levy tolls on all freeways, ban gas stoves, and urge less meat consumption.

Young people overwhelmingly prefer single-family houses, which represent 80 percent of home purchases nationwide for people under 35. If millennials continue their current rate of savings, notes one study, they would need 28 years to qualify for a median-priced house in San Francisco—but only five years in Charlotte and just three in Atlanta. This may be one reason, notes a recent ULI report, why 74 percent of Bay Area millennials are considering moving out in the next five years.

Regional planners and commercial chambers should indeed look to California as a model—of exactly what not to do. The state’s large metro areas are no longer hot growth spots for millennials, who are flocking to suburbs and exurbs elsewhere. Since 2010, the biggest gains in millennial residents have been in low-density, comparatively affordable cities such as Orlando, Austin, and Nashville. Ultimately, the battle for California’s future — and much of Blue America’s — will turn on how these regions meet the challenge of providing housing and opportunities to a new generation of workers and young families. A California that works only for the wealthy and well-established is not sustainable.

America’s “youth culture” was invented, more or less, in California in the 1960s, from the surfing spots of L.A. and Orange County to the countercultural hotbeds of the Bay Area. But today, California is turning on its young, with policies that ensure that most millennials will never fully “launch,” leaving many destined either to move elsewhere or become wards of an ever-expanding welfare state. The Golden State can still create an environment for growth and family formation — but only if it reclaims its historical role as the nation’s beacon of opportunity and youthful enthusiasm.

New Bay Area tobacco bans include non-tobacco products

VapingRestrictive new anti-tobacco ordinances are spreading across the San Francisco Bay Area like a cigarette-sparked wildfire. Northern California cities already have some of the toughest anti-smoking laws in the nation, but a raft of new laws and proposals take aim at “flavored” tobacco products such as menthol cigarettes and fruity mini-cigars.

Health officials argue that these flavored products are particularly appealing to teens, and that their bans are designed to keep young people from picking up an unquestionably dangerous habit. They also argue that the purveyors of menthol cigarettes, for example, target minority communities, and lead to ongoing health problems there.

The ordinances, however, share one trait that has advocates for tobacco “harm reduction” concerned. They make no distinction between combustible tobacco products – i.e., cigarettes, cigarillos, pipe tobacco and cigars – and smokeless products such as e-cigarettes and snus (Swedish-style spit-less tobacco that one places on one’s upper lip).

Tobacco “harm reduction” is a public health strategy designed to reduce the harmful effects of cigarette smoking by encouraging smokers to switch to far-less dangerous – not safe, but less dangerous – types of tobacco-related products. For instance, Public Health England, the United Kingdom’s main public-health agency, argues that vaping is 95 percent safer than cigarette smoking and therefore is a potentially beneficial alternative to smoking.

“About 40 percent of former and current adult smokers predict that removing their ability to choose flavors would make them less likely to remain abstinent or attempt to quit,” wrote Carrie Wade, the R Street Institute’s director of harm-reduction policy, in a recent Washington Examiner column. “While the vast majority of quit attempts are of the ‘cold turkey’ variety, e-cigarettes beat out both nicotine replacement therapies like the patch or nicotine gum and prescribed drugs like Chantix and Zyban.”

Vape liquids are not actually tobacco but mostly contain nicotine. They almost always are flavored. Many adult e-cigarette users prefer vaping with flavored liquids than vaping with those that have a tobacco flavor. These local bans on flavors, by the way, follow a recent statewide law that taxes vaping liquids at the same rate as cigarettes. The California Board of Equalization is currently working out the details of that taxation edict.

Wade described the essence of tobacco harm-reduction policy: make it easier for smokers to switch to smoking alternatives that cause fewer health-related problems. It might be ideal, health-wise if every smoker simply went “cold turkey,” but that’s not likely to happen, so harm-reduction advocates see vaping as a reasonable alternative. They see efforts to limit access to liquids and to boost taxes on them as policies that work against this harm-reduction approach.

Even California’s official Tobacco Education and Research Oversight Committee explained, in a public meeting earlier this year, that insufficient numbers of smokers participate in medically approved nicotine-replacement therapies. The committee, however, made no effort to distinguish between degrees of harm, and one member depicted vaping as just another form of smoking. In Bay Area cities and elsewhere, public-health officials argue that vaping is still dangerous – and they argue (despite contrary evidence) that it serves as a gateway for teens to actual smoking.

As a result of the new rules, it will become increasingly difficult for nicotine-addicted northern Californians to purchase and use vaping products. That’s particularly true as neighboring counties and cities embrace similar bans. Supporters of these bans admit that it is one of their goals to have such ordinances spread from one community to another, thus making it more difficult for people to simply go to a neighboring city to grab some vape juice.

Some proposals have become law, such as one in the Marin County city of Novato. Others are under consideration. The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors is now considering a ban after one of its committees recently approved a new proposal. Likewise, officials in San Francisco and Oakland have also introduced flavor bans.

San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen’s public statements focus on the sale of mentholated tobacco products. She explains that 80 percent of African-American smokers use menthol products. Nevertheless, her proposal includes all flavored tobacco, which includes vaping liquids. Oakland Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington, who led a 2016 campaign to increase soda taxes in the city, has introduced a similar measure that includes vapor products in the flavoring ban.

Novato’s ordinance, which goes into effect January 2018, requires that all residential leases in the city include a clause calling it a “material breach of the agreement for tenant or any other person subject to the control of the tenant … to violate any law regulating smoking while anywhere on the property.” In other words, tenants can be evicted from their apartments not only if caught smoking – but if they or their guests are caught vaping.

The Contra Costa County health department justifies its proposal by stating that e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is addictive, and includes various chemicals known to cause cancer and lung problems. But harm-reduction advocates don’t claim that vaping is totally safe, only that it is far safer than cigarette smoking.

Given the political bent of Bay Area cities and counties, it seems likely that most if not all of these proposals will eventually become law. The question remains whether in their zeal to improve the public’s health, these officials are embracing policies that will make actual smoking-related health improvements that much harder to attain.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Suffocating Regulations Driving California’s Housing Crisis to the Brink

urban-housing-sprawl-366c0Stories about the desperate living arrangements of highly compensated California tech workers sound like tales of Third World misery. One newspaper reports that a Silicon Valley engineer pays $1,400 a month just to live in a closet. He’s squeezing his wallet for the privilege of having a “private room” in a house where five adults live in bunk beds in a single bedroom. Another media outlet reported that a Google engineer moved into a “128-square-foot truck — in the company’s parking lot” because the cost of living in a real house was just too much.

Housing is so expensive across California that Joel Singer, CEO of the California Association of Realtors, said last fall that “only about one-third of our fellow citizens can afford to buy a median-priced home in the Golden State, down from a peak of 56 percent just four years ago.” Californians who own their homes spend more than a quarter of their total income on housing, the highest ratio in the nation. In 2014, Golden State renters paid 33.6 percent of their income on housing — third-highest in the nation. Despite rent-control laws — actually, in part due to those laws — San Francisco has the most unaffordable rental costs in the world, according to Nested, an international real estate service. Los Angeles is tenth on the list. Three of the five costliest housing markets in North America are found in California: San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles.

The housing crisis isn’t confined to the state’s elite coastal enclaves. In Riverside County, part of a region east of Los Angeles known as the Inland Empire, only 39 percent of households “are able to purchase a median-priced home, which in February was $334,440 for a single-family home,” the Desert Sun reported last March. The national average is 58 percent.

The California housing crunch is the product of a dire shortage of homes. Over the last decade, developers have built an average of 80,000 homes each year. But that number is about 100,000 units short of what’s needed to keep up with demand. According to the California Department of Housing and Community Development, the state will need to build roughly 1.8 million units between 2015 and 2025 “to meet projected population and household growth.” That would be like building more than 10 new Oaklands or nearly six new San Joses over that time.

Developers aren’t fools. They know that there is a great demand for housing in California. The profit motive would make them happy to build all those additional Oaklands. But California’s regulatory climate and development policies have eaten away at that incentive. The hurdles to building homes are high and solidly rooted: the most imposing is the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which allows opponents of development to shut down projects in the courts, often with no environmental basis. But because the lawsuits can disrupt and suppress projects, the law has become, as the Hoover Institution’s Loren Kaye says, a “tool for abuse.”

Other barriers include the steepest impact fees in the nation, in some cases nearly $25,000 per unit; affordable-housing mandates in more than 170 jurisdictions that require developers either to choose between building units at below-market value or face government fines; local anti-growth policies; and rent control.

The regulatory regime even includes parking mandates that require, for example, a development to have at least one parking space for every bedroom in the project — a formula that absurdly still applies when only one driver lives in a three-bedroom apartment housing five people. A Southern California Association of Governments report says that sometimes housing units are removed from a project just to accommodate these local minimum-parking mandates.

Californians have raised NIMBYism virtually to a level of first principles. Golden Staters don’t mind housing development, as long as it’s “not in my backyard.” The state has an ugly history of established residents pressuring local officials to build policy walls that make development too costly to pursue. The result of all this government is a shortage that has produced the most distorted housing market in the country. It’s so warped and battered that it can hardly be called a market.

Layers of government housing policy have been settling on top of one another for decades, creating a deep regulatory bog that is exceedingly difficult to dredge. So it’s reasonable to ask if California will ever become livable again. And with state and local policymakers seemingly less attached to reality every year, it’s reasonable to give up and move, as many have already done.

When Did Young Tech Workers Become the Enemy in San Francisco?

San Francisco, CA, USAHow did San Francisco, which welcomed newcomers for so long, decide that the tech workers flocking to it were no longer welcome? And why should those of us outside of tech care about this?

Over the past few years, tech workers have been blamed not only for the city’s worsening traffic congestion and sky-high housing, but also for undermining the city’s bohemian culture and leftist politics through their focus on commerce and money. The chief accusers have been members of San Francisco’s literary establishment, led by Salon founder David Talbot and journalist Rebecca Solnit. A part of this dispute reflects San Francisco’s provincial narcissism. But a part reflects broader themes important beyond San Francisco: the refusal of aging baby boomers to cede even part of the stage to younger creatives, and the related inability of the boomer intellectuals to recognize the creativity in tech’s new worlds of internet commerce and social media.

We might start with David Talbot, journalist and founder in 1995 of Salon, which despite its financial and editorial turmoil of recent years, was one of the pioneers of web journalism. One might think that with this background Talbot would recognize the creativity and value of the current young tech entrepreneurs migrating to San Francisco. Instead, he has made it his mission in recent years to cast them as aliens and threats to the city.

Mr. Talbot, now a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, regularly declares that the city doesn’t feel like home to him anymore, with the new tech millennials and their money. In a recent column, he explains that he can at least still find comfort in his Bernal Heights working class neighborhood. He contrasts his warm, supportive diverse neighborhood with the cold, homogenous tech workers who are buying up $3 million houses in the area. “Yes the new tech money is invading our oasis,” Talbot declares, “but the street still feels anchored around the committed San Franciscans who grew up here or came here following a dream that did not simply involve getting rich.”

First, as anyone who lives in San Francisco knows, this picture involves multiple misrepresentations. The neighbors he describes live secure, comfortable lives as non-profit administrators, government officials, and public interest lawyers; none is remotely working class. Further, they are not a diverse group; most hold the same politics and world views. Talbot fails to mention that he and his neighbors were the people who gentrified the neighborhood in the 1990s, and drove out the construction workers, teachers and retail clerks who previously had lived there.

Beyond these misrepresentations, though, is the bigger shortcoming: a failure to see the ways that the tech workforce is far beyond “simply getting rich” in Talbot’s phrase. Even if making money was the main goal of most tech ventures, it’s difficult to see what is wrong with this. But it’s not the main goal, in San Francisco or elsewhere. We can turn to the economic development field, in which firms are developing new approaches to business funding in inner city and rural areas, and job placement of the unemployed.

Kiva and other crowdfunding sources are developing new funding sources for entrepreneurs. Providing alternatives to traditional funding sources, these crowdsourcing platforms enable individuals to lend financial support to entrepreneurs in floundering rural economies or new businesses in inner city areas.

In the job placement fields, sites such as workpop.com, mentored.com and CareerArc are targeting low-income and vulnerable populations for job placement. Workpop.com is focusing on low-wage workers in the hospitality sector, seeking to provide a mobile platform for more effectively connecting job seekers to entry level jobs. Mentored.com and CareerArc have pilot programs to target unemployed women on the public benefit rolls and unemployed, out-of-school youth.

Other new tech ventures in San Francisco are trying to develop newer lower cost and more effective ways of providing basic healthcare or services to the homeless or urban farming opportunities. Most of these ventures, like most tech ventures in general, will be out of business in a few years, but some make genuine contributions to their fields. All have certain social goals in mind.

The San Francisco tech industry also is filled with creative enterprises in gaming and media and new forms of communications, which is what makes other attacks on tech as being a culture of isolation read as written by grumpy men and women.

Prolific journalist Ms. Solnit has been a frequent critic of tech for its alleged undermining of San Francisco’s culture and politics. In 2016, she wrote a lengthy article for The Guardian on a police shooting and death in Bernal Heights, one of several neighborhoods she sees as threatened by tech.

Though Ms. Solnit is a talented writer, she quickly turns her account of the shooting into an attack on young tech workers coming to San Francisco. The villains in the article, she is careful to emphasize, are three young white men in tech — two gay and one straight — who set in motion a chain of events leading to the shooting. She makes broad claims about police discrimination, invading white newcomers, and concludes without any explanation that “the tech culture seemed in small and large ways to be a culture of disconnection and withdrawal.”

The shooting was deeply disturbing, and the dead man and the events leading to his death call for detailed reporting, but why turn a shooting into a polemic about tech workers? Why reduce an important journalistic story to agitprop?

Further, what does it mean to speak of the tech culture as a “culture of disconnection and withdrawal”? If anything, a good deal of what is going on in tech’s social media space is trying to build new communities — new ways that people can connect based on interests, not only geography.

Talbot and Solnit and their perspective has been given the most media space, but it’s worth noting that there are longtime members of the local literary community who do not regard tech as the enemy of social activism or culture. We might close with a recent event.

A few weeks ago, a celebration was held in Mill Valley for the 70th birthday of writer and illustrator Phyllis Florin. It was an upbeat affair. Ms. Florin declared that at 70 she was entering the best stage of her life. She intended to complete her novel on her Norwegian ancestors and continue exploring new techniques in Photoshop and design.

As the attendees were local writers mainly over fifty years of age, there was the usual complaining about the traffic congestion and the out-of-control housing costs. But even though all hailed from the political left, nobody was angry or bitter about the tech industry. Just the opposite, they welcomed its emerging forms of creativity and culture.

One writer has a son in the video gaming field. Zynga, Kixeye and other gaming startups in San Francisco are providing platforms for new forms of storytelling. Another has a relative involved in a health-care startup for improved patient communication. Still another was drawing on Goodreads and other Internet book sites to publicize her new novel.

One need not be a cheerleader for the tech industry to see the creativity and social missions among young tech entrepreneurs and workers, and seek to encourage them. Even aging boomer intellectuals should be able to see this—if they can get beyond their out-of-date poses and ideologies.

rmer California Employment Development Department Director, whose newest book is “The Autism Job Club” (with R. Holden).

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

San Francisco sues Trump over his ‘sanctuary city’ order

As reported by the Fresno Bee:

San Francisco sued President Donald Trump on Tuesday, claiming an executive order that cuts funding from immigrant-protecting “sanctuary cities” is unconstitutional and a “severe invasion of San Francisco’s sovereignty.”

The federal government cannot “put a gun to the head of localities,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera said, arguing that the order violates states’ rights and the law.

The complaint, filed in federal district court, names Trump and his administration and claims the president is trying to coerce local authorities into abandoning sanctuary city policies, which San Francisco has adopted.

“Strong cities like San Francisco must continue to push the nation forward and remind America that we are a city that fights for what is right,” Mayor Ed Lee said.

The president signed an order last week to withdraw funding from sanctuary cities that decline to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. It did not specify what kind of money could be pulled. …

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Kathryn Steinle’s Family Gets Go-Ahead to Sue Federal Government

 

kathryn-steinle-parentsThe parents of Kathryn Steinle have received the go-ahead to sue the federal government over Kathryn’s July 2o15 death; she was killed by an illegal alien holding a gun issued to a federal agent.

U.S. Magistrate Joseph Spero said Steinle’s parents can sue but stressed that the suit may be dismissed if there is no evidence that the illegal alien – Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez – stole the gun from a federal agent.

The gun in question came from the car of a federal agent — a car from which the gun was stolen. On August 28, 2015, Breitbart News previously reported that the .40 caliber round that killed Steinle was fired from a Sig Sauer handgun that had been stolen from a Bureau of Land Management agent. However, it appears the case will turn on whether Lopez-Sanchez stole the gun himself.

On July 7, 2015, Lopez-Sanchez told KGO-TV he shot Steinle, but he said it was an accident. He said he found the gun “lying on the ground wrapped in a T-shirt,” and that it “went off by accident when he picked it up.”

But the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Spero said the Steinle family “can sue the federal government for negligence because a ranger allegedly left the gun used in the shooting in his unlocked car.” He added, “Leaving a gun loaded makes (its) capability for harm readily accessible in the same way as leaving the key in the ignition of a vehicle.”

Spero dismissed Steinle’s parent’s suit against the City of San Francisco, even as he gave the go-ahead for the suit against the federal government. He “rejected [her parent’s] claims that the city was legally responsible for releasing Lopez-Sanchez without contacting the federal government and that federal immigration officials, who had known the city was holding him, had a duty to pick him up and deport him.”

AWR Hawkins is the Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and host of “Bullets with AWR Hawkins,” a Breitbart News podcast. He is also the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at awrhawkins@breitbart.com.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

San Francisco grapples with growing crime, blight after years of liberal policies

As reported by Fox News:

San Francisco is earning a growing reputation for more than just its unmatched tech sector – for critics, the city stands as a profound example of the damage ultra-liberal policies can do.

After 20 years of envelope-pushing changes to grow government and ease law enforcement, the once-shining City by the Bay has turned into a place where:

“There’s a very tolerant attitude, you can very much do anything on the streets you want,” said Marc Joffe, director of research at the California Policy Center think tank. “As members of a civilized society, there are things you should not accept. But we have ignored that … and there is nobody on the other side setting limits.”

San Francisco’s lax attitude is nothing new and has served as a beacon for the American counter-culture dating back to the Beat Generation. But the city’s embrace decades ago of free love and drugs has morphed into something else. …

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Uber pulls self-driving cars from California roads

As reported by the Chicago Tribune:

Uber pulled its self-driving cars from California roads after state regulators moved to revoke their registrations, officials said.

The move comes after a week of talks between the ride-hailing company and state regulators failed.

Hours after Uber launched the service in its hometown of San Francisco last Wednesday, the Department of Motor Vehicles threatened legal action if the company did not stop. The cars need the same special permit as the 20 other companies testing self-driving technology in California, regulators argued.

Uber maintains it does not need a permit because the cars are not sophisticated enough to continuously drive themselves, although the company promotes them as “self-driving.”

The DMV said the registrations …

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Oakland Fire Death Toll Rises

As reported by Fox News:

A grim search for victims of a devastating fire that ripped through a converted warehouse in Oakland, California during a dance party entered a third day on Monday, with the list of 33 known deaths expected to grow.

The blaze, which erupted about 11:30 p.m. on Friday (0730 GMT on Saturday), ranks as the deadliest in the United States since 100 people perished in a 2003 Rhode Island nightclub fire.

As criminal investigators joined recovery efforts at the charred ruin, just east of San Francisco, firefighters found the remains of nearly three dozen victims at the weekend as they searched the debris-filled shell of the two-story converted warehouse being used by an artists’ collective. …

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Sacramento and S.F. Push for Police Reform at Local Level

Police tapeSACRAMENTO – The presidential campaign focused some attention on the long-simmering debate over policing and the appropriate uses of force, but as is typical with national campaigns, the nuances got lost amid ideologically charged soundbites such as “law and order” and “Black Lives Matter.”

Some advocates for police reform worry about what a new Trump administration will mean for these discussions given the president-elect’s expectedly different approach toward the matter than President Obama’s Department of Justice. But others argue the election will send reform back to where it really belongs: at the local level.

Two northern California cities, Sacramento and San Francisco, are good examples of the latter. They are currently plowing ahead with major oversight and accountability proposals for their police departments – the result of local policing scandals that have little to do with national political changes. Sacramento takes up the matter at a City Council meeting on Tuesday.

The Sacramento reforms were prompted by a video of two police officers in pursuit of a mentally ill homeless man, Joseph Mann, who was armed with a knife and acting erratically. As the Sacramento Bee reported, the video sequence shows “the officers gunned their vehicle toward Mann, backed up, turned and then drove toward him again, based on dash-cam video released by police. They stopped the car, ran toward Mann on foot and shot him 14 times.” One officer is recorded saying “f— this guy” shortly before they shot him.

The killing raised questions not only about the appropriate use of force in such situations, but about the city’s willingness to provide the public information about what transpired. Top city officials – the police chief, city attorney and city manager – didn’t release the video of the event until after the Bee acquired the footage from a private citizen. The shooting led to community protests and has been a source of strife – and council debate – ever since.

In September, the newspaper’s Editorial Board published this pointed editorial: “The city could have been upfront with Mann’s family about how many times he was shot and how long the investigation into the shooting would take. Instead, his brother, backed by enough activists to fill City Hall, had go before the City Council to beg for information. The city could have been clear about what training officers receive to handle people who are mentally ill. Instead, police still haven’t responded to a Public Records Act request for a copy of the department’s policy.”

Reformers argue that the proposed policy doesn’t go far enough, although backers argue that it is about as far as it can go given state law. Specifically, the measure would transfer power of the civilian oversight committee from the city manager’s office to the mayor and City Council – thus providing a more independent level of oversight given that the city manager also oversees the police department. Council members are at least beholden to voters.

The city’s proposal also does the following: “This resolution requires the city manager to ensure that all police officers of the Sacramento Police Department abide by council specified guidelines with regards to use of force. Key components of the resolution include the timely release of video after an officer involved incident occurs and the immediate notification of family members after an officer involved shooting.” That attempts to deal with the public-records issue.

Civilian-oversight commissions are still limited by the state Supreme Court’s Copley decision. In that 2006 case, the San Diego Union-Tribune tried to gain access to a disciplinary hearing regarding a deputy sheriff who was appealing his termination. As the newspaper reported, “The court ruled that police disciplinary hearings are closed — and the public has no right to learn about allegations of police misconduct, even when they are aired in a civil service commission.” Legislative efforts to roll back parts of the decision have repeatedly been stymied by police union lobbying.

In San Francisco, officials have been reacting to controversy following three officer-involved shootings and a scandal involving racist text messages that were allegedly sent by police officers. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported in April, “The messages are loaded with slurs and ugly stereotypes, and include one from an officer responding to a photo of a blackened Thanksgiving turkey. ‘Is that a Ferguson turkey?’ the officer asks, referring to the city in Missouri that saw widespread protests after police fatally shot an unarmed African American man in 2014.”

National politics plays a bigger role in the San Francisco case. That’s because the federal Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services department published a study last month looking at San Francisco’s police department. The mayor and former police chief had asked the department to review police practices following these scandals.

As the report’s summary explained, “Although the COPS Office found a department that is committed to making changes and working with the community, it also found a department with outdated use of force policies that fail the officers and the community and inadequate data collection that prevents leadership from understanding officer activities and ensure organizational accountability. The department lacked accountability measures to ensure that the department is being open and transparent while holding officers accountable.”

San Francisco officials have vowed to implement the 479 recommendations made in the Justice Department report. “We will continue to implement the recommendations for reform which will be built on the most current policing policies and practices, fostering an environment of trust and strong relationships with our communities,” said acting Police Chief Toney Chaplin.

In Sacramento, Mayor-elect Darrell Steinberg, who is inaugurated on Dec. 13, told the Bee “the public certainly has a right to know whether a particular officer who has been accused of misconduct continues to serve in the role of police officer. … There ought to be a clear presumption of openness and the burden ought to be on the city attorney and police to demonstrate in a compelling way why anything is not public.” There’s concern that a federal lawsuit by Mann’s relatives will allow the city to shut down public access to information about the shooting.

This much is clear: Whatever changes a new administration makes at the Department of Justice, local officials throughout California are on the front lines of the police-reform movement.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com