They Keep Trying, Keep Failing to Actually Nab Donald Trump for Criminality

Like a Road Runner cartoon, the pursuit of Donald Trump is unending, noisy, and repeatedly running off the edge of a cliff.

The January 6th committee concluded its hearings in July with a thundering failure to present any of the long-promised evidence that Trump had committed a crime. But then another box of Acme explosives arrived in the form of subpoenas from the Biden administration’s Department of Justice, just in time to fill the newspapers, airwaves and internet with reports about the coming this-time-we’ve-got-him.

A check of online headlines Thursday found CNBC trumpeting, “Trump likely to be criminally charged in DOJ election probe along with other former White House officials,” and CNN splashing, “Exclusive: Trump lawyers in talks with Justice Department about January 6 probe.” Next to the story was a video clip of Rep. Liz Cheney with the caption, “I think he’s guilty.”

CNN cited “sources familiar with the matter” for its report that Trump’s legal team was communicating with Justice Department officials, “the first sign of talks between the two sides as the criminal probe into January 6, 2021, accelerates.”

CNBC’s story that Trump is “likely” to face criminal charges had no sources other than pure speculation by former Attorney General Eric Holder, who made the comments on a Sirius satellite radio program. “I think ultimately you’re probably going to see the president, former president of the United States indicted,” the former Obama administration official said, while admitting that he had not yet seen any evidence that would justify it. However, Holder was confident that as “more evidence is elicited, you will see people start to cut deals.”

A week earlier, the New York Times had breathlessly reported that the Justice Department’s “investigation into a central element of the push to keep Mr. Trump in office – the plan to name slates of electors pledged to Mr. Trump in battleground states won by Mr. Biden — now appears to be accelerating as prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington ask witnesses about Mr. Trump and members of his inner circle.” The report was sourced to a “person familiar with the testimony.”

But here’s where the story runs off the cliff: Senators Susan Collins and Joe Manchin have introduced a bill to reform the Electoral Count Act of 1887, the law on Electoral College procedures that was the basis for the Trump team’s plan. The fact that the senators are proposing to change the law to prevent what Trump tried to do is itself evidence that what Trump tried to do is within the law.

That’s not the evidence Liz Cheney promised to show everybody, but there it is.

The proposed Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act follows months of work by the majority staff of the Committee on House Administration. In January, the staff produced a dense 35-page report — 191 footnotes — on the Electoral Count Act of 1887 and proposals for reforming it. Among the recommendations: “narrowing the vice president’s role at the count.”

Here’s another one: “narrowing states’ ability to appoint electors after Election Day.”

There are more recommendations for changes, such as “enacting new counting rules” and raising the minimum number of lawmakers required to object to counting a state’s electoral votes. The staff report concludes, “Taken together, these reforms would end any ambiguity about the timing of presidential elections, clarify Congress’s role at the count, and constrain Congress in future controversies.”

The Electoral Count Act of 1887 is wildly complicated, as is the history of how it came to be. But you don’t have to know the fine points of the “safe harbor” provision to see that if Congress is trying to change the law so no one can do what President Trump tried to do, then what President Trump did wasn’t a crime.

It wasn’t unlawful to seek alternate slates of electors, or to talk to members of Congress and U.S. senators about raising objections to accepting the votes of some states, or to talk to state officials about how many ballots may have been illegally counted because they were cast too early or too late.

“President Trump’s campaign argued that 3 U.S.C. Section 1 [setting a single, uniform Election Day] prohibits states from undertaking certain election-related acts prior to or after Election Day, such as receiving or processing mail ballots,” the committee staff report explains, “Congress should clarify that 3 U.S.C. Section 1 does not restrict states from permitting acts and procedures of that kind.”

Until Congress actually does clarify it, there is nothing criminal about questioning the legality of mail ballots that were accepted past a state’s legal deadline (as in Pennsylvania) or in an illegal drop box (as in Wisconsin). It wasn’t criminal to have a rival slate of electors in case a state legislature could be convinced to appoint them, or to ask the vice president to do what the newly revised law would prohibit in the future.

Nonetheless, the show must go on. On Thursday, Liz Cheney released a video of her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, denouncing former President Trump with the ridiculous statement, “In our nation’s 246-year history, there has never been an individual that was a greater threat to our republic than Donald Trump.”

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

L.A. Voters to Decide Whether Hotels Must Rent Vacant Rooms to Homeless People

A controversial measure that would require hotels in Los Angeles to rent vacant rooms to homeless people will go before voters in 2024, the City Council decided Friday.

The council rejected an option that would have skipped the public vote and enacted the ordinance directly, instead voting 12 to 0 to send the measure to the ballot. The initiative is backed by the hospitality worker union Unite Here Local 11, which had gathered enough signatures to place it before voters.

Friday’s council vote sets the stage for a protracted public battle over the measure, with L.A. voters having the ultimate say in 19 months. The hotel industry will probably mount vigorous opposition to the ballot measure. A number of progressive community and housing groups have backed it alongside Unite Here.

The proposal comes as city officials are gradually closing one of the signature programs set up to address homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic: Project Roomkey, which turned multistory hotels into makeshift shelters. A number of the Project Roomkey sites have already closed.

Hotel owners and operators made up a large contingent of the packed council chamber, with many arguing that the proposal would unfairly burden hotels and hurt their ability to do business.

A handful of hotel workers spoke in support of the measure, while some others opposed it.

Under the proposal, hotels would be required to regularly report the number of vacant rooms they have to the city’s housing department. A program run through the department would then make referrals and pay “fair market rate” for the lodging using prepaid vouchers. Hotels would be prohibited from discriminating against homeless Angelenos “for their participation in this program, or the fact or perception, that they are unhoused.”

That proposed voucher program has no designated source of funding and would be contingent on funding being secured by July 1, 2023, according to a report from the city attorney’s office.

Unite Here Local 11 spokesperson Maria Hernandez said the voucher program would set up a system for utilizing various funding streams.

“Just like with Project Roomkey, there are federal, state and local sources of funding for emergency housing, and this initiative creates a new option for using those funds to get people into housing immediately,” Hernandez said. “There are also nonprofits, churches and other private sources that are interested in buying vouchers to house those in need.”

The measure would also have significant land-use implications for new hotel development.

During his public comment, Northeast Los Angeles Hotel Owners Assn. President Ray Patel asked all the hotel owners in the room to stand up, saying their operations would be dramatically affected if the proposal was directly approved. Patel, who owns Welcome Inn in Eagle Rock, urged the city to instead use Project Roomkey’s voluntary participation as a model.

“Hotels would gladly volunteer their hotels to participate in programs as long as there’s a wraparound service, which includes mental health service, social service, 24-hour security and somebody’s there to hold their hand and help them get into permanent housing,” Patel said.

Several speakers also raised concerns about the lack of details regarding how the sweeping proposal would work.

“We have no economic data about what it will cost the city,” Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn., said, noting the lack of funding source and the fact that rates had not yet been set for hotel rooms.

“Hotels did not cause the homeless problem. Hotels are not the solution for the homeless problem,” Waldman said to loud applause in the council chamber.

Richard Earle, a representative of independent hospitality insurance brokerage Petra Risk Solutions, was one of several speakers who said the program would reduce hotels’ ability to procure and maintain insurance.

“Insurance carriers will legitimately pull coverage,” Earle said. “The business is underwritten with risks that involve guests and business travelers, not residents who bring a whole set of separate implications.”

But Carly Kirchen, an organizer with Unite Here Local 11, argued that hotel operators and associations were being unfairly prejudiced against homeless Angelenos.

“The hotel operators would have you believe that every person experiencing homelessness is so sick that they are a danger to the people around them. But this myth argument misrepresents who is actually experiencing homelessness,” Kirchen said, noting that hotel workers are among those most affected by the housing crisis, with thousands of their members facing eviction.

“Even as a union member with a good-paying job, I was recently homeless due to the housing crisis in our city,” said Bambian Taft, who identified herself as a hotel minibar attendant and former housekeeper. Taft said she had recently paid out of pocket to stay at hotels with her daughters when there was “no work for me at the hotel.”

Click here to read the full article at the LA Times

Wrangling over renewables: Counties Push Back on Newsom Administration Usurping Local Control

Kings County Supervisor Joe Neves guided his pickup to a stop next to a long line of chain-link fencing. On one side of a gravel road stood row after row of glinting solar panels. The automated mirrors pivot and turn, following the sun in its daily path across the Central Valley sky.

Neves, a big man with a wispy Santa Claus beard, was showing off the county’s newest mega solar power project, still under construction on 1,600 acres. A state-of-the-art facility, it includes powerful batteries to store and deliver power after the sun sets.

This solar plant in King County is one of the scores of new renewable energy puzzle pieces across the state considered vital to California’s transition to cleaner electricity and its pursuit of climate change solutions. 

Rural California counties like Kings — with lots of land, sunshine and wind — are the focal point for many of these projects. Now they are at the epicenter of a statewide controversy, too. 

Last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom pressured lawmakers to approve an energy plan that aimed to expedite and streamline construction of new clean energy facilities. Included is a controversial clause that lets developers bypass local permitting and instead turn to the California Energy Commission for fast-track approval.

The new strategy is an end run around local authorities who sometimes balk at allowing wind and solar facilities in their own backyards.

But if Newsom sees small, rural counties as impediments, Kings County begs to differ. Neves and other local officials have been busily opening up their county to solar projects for more than a dozen years. 

Far from scoffing at the idea of renewable energy, some Kings County farmers have embraced solar generation as a profitable problem solver – they get paid for the use of their barren land and can transfer the water to higher-value crops.

Whatever the intent of the new law, Kings County doesn’t think it’s the problem: Most projects in the county’s 40,000-acre solar zone receive approval in less than six months — in some cases in six weeks, county officials say.

“We are not unsophisticated, we know what we are doing,” Neves said. “We planned for this. We can see the future.”

Across the state, local officials were miffed at state officials for being excluded from the discussion as the law was being crafted behind closed doors in late June, then piqued again after it passed the Legislature and was signed by Newsom, meaning they no longer had the final say-so for projects in their counties.

“Local governments are viewed as an impediment, another layer you have to go through to get your project across the finish line. But we permit these facilities all the time. It’s one of the core functions we perform as local government,” said John Kennedy, a lobbyist for Rural County Representatives of California, which advocates for 39 small counties.

“To have that authority taken out of our hands and given to the Energy Commission — that much farther from the people, that much removed from local sensitivity — to have that authority clawed back is really painful,” he said. “We’re in the crosshairs, but we don’t think we are the right target here.”

While a few projects have been stalled by local officials, some energy developers said Newsom’s initiative is a solution in search of a problem.

“What is this proposal solving for?” said Alex Jackson, director of California state affairs for American Clean Power, an association of renewable energy companies.

“In general we work really well with local government. We have invested a lot in those relationships. We prefer to work with them rather than strong-arm them. Overall we don’t see this as unlocking the path to accelerating clean energy.”  

In his signing statement attached to the new bill, Newsom said the unprecedented pace of climate change means California must move faster to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. The state must begin producing 50% more clean power in the next decade in order to meet its goals.

The new law, Newsom wrote, will “support and expedite the State’s transition to clean energy projects and help maintain energy reliability in the face of climate change.” The fast-track option through the Energy Commission promises developers a decision within 270 days and bypasses local approval. 

The new strategy, Newsom wrote, will help keep the lights on when demand peaks from extreme heat and drought, which are putting “unprecedented stress” on the state’s power grid. “Action is needed now,” he said.

Kings County: A prime place for generating energy 

Kings County, population 152,486 and home to Hanford and Kettleman City,  is well-situated to host renewable energy projects: It’s at the nexus of major north-south and east-west transmission lines and its power plants can readily dispatch electricity to the grid.

Solar projects already built on Kings County’s fallowed farmland are helping power Disneyland, and the newest development, called Slate Solar and Storage, will supply about 900 megawatts of electricity when it’s finished. Some will go to two Bay Area powerhouses: The BART transportation network and Stanford University. 

Occupying former watermelon, cotton and corn fields fallowed by drought,  developers are building solar farms in Kings County as fast as the world’s crippled supply chain will allow. To expedite the process, local planning officials created solar energy zones that have already been fully vetted and undergone comprehensive environmental analysis. 

The county has more than 21,000 acres of solar development, and the land, mostly private property, is leased or sold outright to companies.

Faced with rapidly rising energy costs, school districts and towns are investing in their own small-scale solar projects, Neves said, as have farmers looking for cheap ways to pump water and run equipment. 

“A humongous task” 

Whether funneled through the Energy Commission’s new process or approved by local authorities, new renewable energy development will have to come fast. 

Although California is well ahead of its interim goals for clean power – about 34% of its generation last year – getting to carbon-free by 2045 will be a challenge of the highest order.

With worsening climate models, electrification of transportation and buildings, the drought-driven crash in hydroelectric power, and the scheduled closure of fossil-fuel power plants, the sobering reality in California is this: At current rates the state will produce 40 gigawatts of clean power annually over the next decade, while preliminary projections show it needs 60 gigawatts a year — at a minimum. 

The need, given how rapidly demand is growing, is likely to increase.

“It’s a humongous task,” said Siva Gunda, vice chair of the California Energy Commission. “We’ve had 100 years to build the grid the way it is today and we’re redoing it in the next 20 years. At least we have a plan. We are digging ourselves out of a hole.”

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

Average Pay for Manhattan Beach Firefighters is $328,000 Per Year

Compensation and benefits for public safety personnel is a fraught topic

Negotiations between the Manhattan Beach Firefighters Association and the Manhattan Beach City Council have been stalled since May, when an impasse was announced. As reported in a local publication serving Manhattan Beach and nearby cities, firefighters and their supporters packed a July 19 city council meeting to urge the council to alter its stance in labor negotiations.

In the article, “Firefighters from Manhattan Beach and their supporters storm City Hall,” some of the firefighter union’s positions were noted. One of them was for the firefighters to receive “the same cost of living salary increases the other city unions received over the last 3.5 years, a period during with MBFA has not received an increase.”

In that regard, it would be useful to report what full time firefighters with the Manhattan Beach Fire Department earned in 2021, using data downloaded from the State Controller’s website.

A few things should be called out in the above chart. First – the employee compensation data the City of Manhattan Beach reported to the State Controller did not include any allocation of the payment the city makes towards the unfunded pension liability. This means the numbers you see in the “pension” column are for the so-called “normal cost” and therefore no argument can be made that they are inflated. One could make the argument that since no allocation whatsoever is made to active duty firefighter compensation to account for the city’s substantial unfunded pension debt, the average per firefighter pension costs reported here are understated. But that’s material for another story.

Next, the context in which Manhattan Beach firefighters claim they have not received cost of living increases commensurate with what other city unions received over the last 3.5 years might reasonably include how much firefighters earn in other cities. Here, using 2020 data, is average compensation for full time firefighters in the 25 largest city departments in California. The yellow highlighted top four all include payments on the unfunded pension liability in their reported data and therefore probably overstate the total compensation. As can be seen, however, even taking that into account, only one city, Santa Clara, reports total compensation in excess of Manhattan Beach. None of the other cities are even close. This data is one year old, but it is a safe bet that Berkeley, for example, did not increase its total firefighter compensation by 28 percent ($71,000) in one year [(328/257)-1].

Finally, what stands out with respect to Manhattan Beach firefighter compensation is the large amount of overtime they’re earning, $94,000. None of the major cities have anything close to that in overtime expense. Why is this?

In a letter the City Council released on July 19, the city attempted to explain this, writing:

The Firefighters’ Association has repeatedly stated they receive overtime for hours worked beyond their normal hours. This is not true. Just because a firefighter receives overtime does not mean they are working time over their regularly scheduled hours. For example, a firefighter can be on vacation for two shifts but work another shift in the same week and receive overtime. Similarly, two firefighters can work each other’s vacation shifts and receive overtime without working any additional hours. This is because vacation, holiday leave, and injury pay count as “hours worked” to qualify for overtime.

One of the City’s proposals to reduce overtime addresses the current system in which every shift taken as leave is automatically backfilled with overtime by allowing shift trades (two firefighters working for each other). This proposal allows employees to take the same amount of time off while reducing the payment of time and a half overtime when firefighters are not working any additional hours. This, in effect, limits the number of shifts that will be backfilled on an overtime basis. The City is also proposing to remove the ability to convert unused sick leave into vacation, which creates further backfill of overtime. The Association has not agreed to these simple provisions because it will reduce the amount of overtime pay they receive.

In plain English, what the city council is saying is that Manhattan Beach firefighters game the rules to collect overtime even though they aren’t working extra hours. It is reasonable for the city council to attempt to rewrite the rules so this will stop.

Compensation and benefits for public safety personnel is a fraught topic, and hyperbole does nothing to foster constructive outcomes. How much should a firefighter make? It’s fine to throw out statistics that prove the average life span of a retired California firefighter is actually somewhat greater than that of the public at large, or that statistically, a cashier behind a liquor store counter is more likely to die on the job than a firefighter. But that fails to take into account the fact that a horrific conflagration, such as the World Trade Center bombing, could alter those statistics overnight, and firefighters go to work with that knowledge every day. Liquor store clerks, as we have learned, provide essential services, but they’re not the ones who come running to help when our house is burning down, or a family member is having a medical emergency.

Using statistics also can overlook the fact that the value of life has never been so precious. A century ago, disease, war, and accidents claimed lives with such frequency that death was a normal part of life. Today, especially in a city as wealthy as Manhattan Beach, death is never routine. Citizens therefore have never had higher expectations of their fire departments than they have today, and better service is going to cost more. Unfortunately, this makes it hard to argue with a firefighter who is a member of the community and believes they deserve a raise. But in Manhattan Beach, with respect, they don’t.

Firefighters that collect a pay and benefits package in excess of $300,000 per year are not underpaid. Maybe they can’t afford a home in Manhattan Beach. But that’s because nobody can afford a home in Manhattan Beach. Maybe it’s gotten harder to recruit firefighters. But that’s because it’s gotten harder to recruit anyone to take jobs in recent years.

Firefighters in Manhattan Beach should ask themselves: Is my job harder than one in San Diego, where the average firefighter pay and benefits package is less than half what it is in Manhattan Beach? Clearly it’s not. Work through a Saturday night in downtown San Diego, and compare that to working the night shift on a weekend in Manhattan Beach. There are over 30,000 full time firefighters in California. To pay all of them what firefighters make in Manhattan Beach, instead of what firefighters make in San Diego, would cost taxpayers $4.5 billion per year.

Click here to read the full article at the California Globe

Newsom Asks Hollywood to Stop Filming in Conservative States

SACRAMENTO >> Widening his attack on Republican states for their positions on guns, civil rights and abortion, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California on Wednesday called on Hollywood to “walk the walk” on liberal values by bringing back their film and television productions from states such as Georgia and Oklahoma.

Newsom issued the challenge through an ad in Variety that asked the state’s left-leaning creative community to “take stock of your values — and those of your employees — when doing business in those states.”

The Democratic governor on Wednesday simultaneously endorsed a legislative proposal that would provide a $1.65 billion, five-year extension of California’s film and television production tax credit program.

It marked the second time in recent weeks that Newsom has used California legislation as a cudgel to rip Republican leaders elsewhere. Last month, he signed a bill allowing residents to sue makers of illegal guns and took the opportunity to rebuke Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas for previously enabling its residents to sue abortion providers.

Newsom’s statements on Wednesday underscored the pressure that intensifying culture wars have placed on U.S. corporations, particularly in states where the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade has severely constrained reproductive rights for women.

Some of the country’s biggest businesses, including the Walt Disney Co., Netflix and Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, have announced programs to help employees who need abortion access but cannot obtain it in their home states. Hundreds of entertainment figures also have denounced policies in Republican-led states that have weakened safeguards for LGBTQ people. Last week, some 400 television creators and showrunners publicly demanded that production companies protect pregnant employees in states where abortion is outlawed.

But entertainment companies have not yet announced major plans to cancel expansions or relocate offices. “Tulsa King,” Taylor Sheridan’s upcoming crime drama starring Sylvester Stallone, has been filming this summer for Paramount+ in Oklahoma.

In Georgia on Monday, Gov. Brian Kemp announced that film and television productions generated $4.4 billion in the state this fiscal year, a new record. “Spider-Man: No Way Home” was filmed in the state, the governor noted, as was the fourth season of “Stranger Things.”

“I was happy to name Gavin Newsom Oklahoma’s Economic Developer of the Year Award in 2021 and I’m glad to see he’s making a run for two years in a row,” Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma joked in a statement on Wednesday. Stitt took a similar jab at the California governor last year in reference to the state’s pandemic shutdowns, which Stitt said drove business to his state.

The Motion Picture Association, the trade group representing major film studios and Netflix, declined to comment on Wednesday.

Newsom has been in the thick of that power struggle for months, trolling DeSantis on Twitter and inviting Disney to rethink its Florida investments. The Variety ad was the latest in a series of initiatives by Newsom to take his defense of “California values” onto a national stage.

A $105,000 spot that ran in Florida last month — attacking DeSantis and inviting Florida businesses to come to California — was the opening salvo in a national effort by Newsom that has included newspaper ads in Texas attacking Abbott on abortion restrictions and a highly publicized trip to Washington, D.C., to discuss, among other things, gun legislation.

In widening his attacks to include Oklahoma and Georgia, Newsom targeted not only two of California’s most aggressive rivals for film, television and other content production but two of the nation’s most conservative states on social issues.

Oklahoma, which aggressively ramped up film production incentives during the pandemic, has banned nearly all abortions since the Roe v. Wade reversal. And Georgia, which has one of the nation’s most generous packages of film production incentives, has granted fetuses full legal recognition. This week, a Georgia tax agency found that pregnant women could take a $3,000 personal tax exemption for any fetus with a detectable heartbeat.

Newsom noted that California’s abortion rights are among the most secure in the nation. The state has also enacted some of the nation’s toughest laws on gun safety and civil liberties for LGBTQ people.

Click here to read the full article in the New York Times

California Taxpayers Will Subsidize New A’s Ballpark

As the 2021-22 state budget was being finalized in June of last year, a $279.5 million appropriation was quietly inserted into the massive spending plan before it was sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“Funds appropriated in this item shall be for the Port of Oakland for improvements that facilitate enhanced freight and passenger access and to promote the efficient and safe movement of goods and people,” the budget declared.

Seemingly, the Legislature was responding to numerous pleas from the shipping industry for upgrades to maintain the port’s viability in the face of intense competition for international trade.

However, when the port commission recently approved a list of specific projects the money would finance, its long-suspected true purpose became clear. The money would not be spent to improve cargo-handling, but rather to subsidize development of a new stadium for the Oakland A’s baseball team on a disused container site known as Howard Terminal near Jack London Square.

The money would pay for facilities to make it easier for baseball fans to access the new stadium. They apparently would be the “passengers” the appropriation cited.

The commission acted shortly after the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission officially removed Howard Terminal’s designation as a cargo site.

For years, A’s owners, citing inadequacies of the Oakland Coliseum, have yearned for a new stadium while threatening to move the team if its demands were not met. At one point, the team tried to move to San Jose, but that city was part of the San Francisco Giants’ designated territory and the Giants refused to relinquish it.

Oakland officialdom, having lost the Raiders football team to Las Vegas and the Warriors basketball team to San Francisco, is desperate to keep the A’s in Oakland and a number of potential stadium sites have been explored.

Finally, the city and A’s owner John Fisher, a scion of the family that owns clothier Gap, settled on the 55-acre Howard Terminal site, not only for a new baseball stadium but a $12 billion residential and commercial complex.

The decision didn’t sit well with the shipping industry, which saw it as an intrusion on cargo-handling operations.

As Fisher was negotiating with city officials over the project last year, state Sen. Nancy Skinner, a Democrat who represents Oakland and chairs the Senate Budget Committee, slipped the $279.5 million appropriation into the budget bill and it eventually was approved by the full Legislature and Newsom.

It’s just a tiny fraction of a 2021-22 state budget that approached $300 billion but would have been enough to build affordable housing for more than 500 low- and moderate-income families.

Moreover, it represents two common but unseemly practices in the state Capitol.

The first is using the state budget, which is largely drafted in secret with little opportunity for the media and the public to peruse its details, as a vehicle to deliver goodies to those with political pull.

After the budget and its attendant “trailer bills” are enacted each year, we learn — too late — exactly who has received special attention, either in the form of money or some beneficial change of law.

The second is the slavish attention that California politicians devote to the welfare of professional sports teams and their wealthy owners. Every major sports arena project in recent years has received some sort of help from the Capitol, mostly exemptions from the environmental red tape that other big projects must navigate.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

He Shot My Arm Off!

Armed robber flees in panic when Norco liquor store owner blasts shotgun: ‘He shot my arm off!’

Dramatic surveillance video captured the moment a Norco liquor store owner used his shotgun to shoot a would-be robber who was armed with a rifle.

Footage shows the armed suspect burst into the business and the owner immediately shoot a single blast from his firearm.

Cameras outside captured the suspect frantically screaming, “He shot my arm off! He shot my arm off!”

Multiple suspects then quickly take off in a dark-colored SUV and almost leave a person behind, the footage shows.

Authorities say the incident happened at Norco Market & Liquor in the 800 block of Sixth Street around 2:47 a.m. Sunday. Four suspects armed with long guns were involved in the attempted robbery and were wearing facial coverings, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

Four suspects were later found at a hospital, including one who was suffering from a gunshot wound consistent with a shotgun blast, authorities say. The three other suspects were found inside the suspect vehicle, which authorities say was reported stolen.

The suspects were identified as 22-year-old Inglewood resident Justin Johnson, 27-year-old Los Angeles resident Jamar Williams and 24-year-old Las Vegas resident Davon Broadus.

The wounded suspect’s name has not been released. The 23-year-old remains hospitalized in critical, but stable condition.

Several stolen firearms were allegedly found in the BMW SUV the suspects used.

Workers and customers are praising the business owner, Craig, for his quick action.

“What if he wouldn’t have been as quick as it was. It could’ve been him,” customer Julie Fensel told Eyewitness News.

Craig, 80, is recovering from a heart attack after the shocking incident.

“The sheriff’s warned us that this had been going on in the area recently and to just be on your toes, you know, so he was on his toes. Thank God,” employee Marnie Tapia said.

Employees say the owner saw what was happening in the monitors: the suspects’ SUV back in and the armed men step out.

“He just prepared himself. He’s always prepared as far as weapons go,” Tapia said about the owner.

Click here to read the full article at KABC

Western Flames Spread, California Sees Its Largest 2022 Fire

Crews battling the largest wildfire so far this year in California braced for thunderstorms and hot, windy conditions that created the potential for additional fire growth Sunday as they sought to protect remote communities.

The McKinney Fire was burning out of control in Northern California’s Klamath National Forest, with expected thunderstorms a big concern Sunday just south of the Oregon state line, said U.S. Forest Service spokesperson Adrienne Freeman.

“The fuel beds are so dry and they can just erupt from that lightning,” Freeman said. “These thunder cells come with gusty erratic winds that can blow fire in every direction.”

The blaze exploded in size to more than 80 square miles (207 square km) just two days after erupting in a largely unpopulated area of Siskiyou County, according to a Sunday incident report. The cause was under investigation.

The blaze torched trees along California Highway 96, and the scorched remains of a pickup truck sat in a lane of the highway. Thick smoke covered the area and flames burned through hillsides in sight of homes. The fire Sunday cast an eerie, orange-brown hue, in one neighborhood where a brick chimney stood surrounded by rubble and scorched vehicles.

A second, smaller fire just to the west that was sparked by dry lightning Saturday threatened the tiny town of Seiad, Freeman said. About 400 structures were under threat from the two California fires. Authorities have not confirmed the extent of the damage yet, saying assessments would begin when it was safe to reach the area.

A third fire, which was on the southwest end of the McKinney blaze, prompted evacuation orders for around 500 homes Sunday, said Courtney Kreider, a spokesperson with the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office. The office said crews had been on the scene of the fire since late Saturday but that the fire Sunday morning “became active and escaped its containment line.”

Several people in the sheriff’s office have been affected by evacuation orders due to the fires “and they’re still showing up to work so, (a) very dedicated crew,” she said. A deputy lost his childhood home to fire on Friday, she said.

The McKinney fire “remains 0% contained,” the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post late Sunday night.

As the McKinney fire threatened, some residents chose to stay behind while others heeded orders to leave.

Larry Castle and his wife, Nancy, were among about 2,000 residents of the Yreka area under evacuation orders. They left Saturday with some of their prized possessions, including Larry’s motorcycle, and took their dogs to stay with their daughter near Mount Shasta.

Larry Castle said he wasn’t taking any chances after seeing the explosive growth of major fires in recent years.

“You look back at the Paradise fire and the Santa Rosa fire and you realize this stuff is very, very serious,” he told the Sacramento Bee.

In northwest Montana, a fire sparked in grasslands near the town of Elmo had grown to about 17 square miles (44 square km) after advancing into forest. Crews were working along edges of the fire Sunday, and aircraft were expected to continue to make water and retardant drops to help slow the fire’s advance, said Sara Rouse, a spokesperson with the interagency team assigned to the fire. High temperatures and erratic winds were expected, she said.

A section of Highway 28 between Hot Springs and Elmo that had been closed was reopened with drivers asked to watch for fire and emergency personnel. Visibility in the area was poor, Rouse said.

In Idaho, the Moose Fire in the Salmon-Challis National Forest has burned on more than 75 square miles (196 square km) in timbered land near the town of Salmon. It was 21% contained by Sunday morning. Pila Malolo, planning operations section chief on the fire, said in a Facebook video update that hot, dry conditions were expected to persist Sunday. Officials said they expected fire growth in steep, rugged country on the fire’s south side.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency Saturday as the McKinney Fire intensified. The proclamation allows Newsom more flexibility to make emergency response and recovery effort decisions and access federal aid.

California law enforcement knocked on doors in the towns of Yreka and Fort Jones to urge residents to get out and safely evacuate their livestock onto trailers. Automated calls were being sent to land phone lines as well because there were areas without cell phone service.

Scientists say climate change has made the West warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.

The Pacific Coast Trail Association urged hikers to get to the nearest town while the U.S. Forest Service closed a 110-mile (177-km) section of the trail from the Etna Summit to the Mt. Ashland Campground in southern Oregon.

In Hawaii, the Maui County Emergency Management Agency said a brush fire was 90% contained but a red flag warning was in effect for much of Sunday.

Click here to read the full article in the AP News

California Judge Overturns San Francisco Law Allowing Noncitizens to Vote

New York City’s identical law was recently struck down by a judge

In 2016, San Francisco voters approved a charter amendment allowing certain noncitizens to vote in school board elections. The Charter amendment also gave the County Board of Supervisors authority to extend the noncitizen voting authorization beyond 2022. On November 2, 2021, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors extended indefinitely the ordinance allowing noncitizens to vote beyond 2022.

In March 2022, California attorney James Lacy filed a lawsuit against the city and county of San Francisco over this law arguing that San Francisco residents have a clear interest in ensuring their school board elections follow state law, especially because state taxpayers partially fund school districts.

“The State of California has a long-standing requirement that voters must be United States citizens,” the lawsuit by James V. Lacy; Michael Denny; United States Justice Foundation; and California Public Policy Foundation opens with. “This requirement applies to every election in the state, even those conducted by charter cities, because determining voter qualifications is a matter of statewide concern where state law supersedes conflicting charter city ordinances. Therefore, the San Francisco ordinance authorizing noncitizen voting in elections for the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) is unlawful and may not be implemented.”

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Ulmer just ruled in favor of Lacy et. al. “A San Francisco law allowing noncitizen parents to vote in local school board elections was overturned Friday by a judge who said the California Constitution permits only citizens to vote,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The Globe spoke with Lacy just before the hearing about the unconstitutionality of the law. He said the local law violates the California Constitution and Elections Code.

Lacy also noted that New York City’s identical law was recently struck down by a judge, which would have allowed 800,000 non-citizens to vote, setting an important precedent.

The judge said allowing non-citizens to vote “is contrary to the California Constitution and state statutes and cannot stand.”

The judge told a lawyer for the city that the power of charter cities such as San Francisco to regulate municipal affairs “does not override the Constitution,” the Chronicle reported.

“A permanent injunction has been issued to stop San Francisco from processing noncitizen voting and the Court has invited Lacy and the plaintiffs to file a motion to claim attorneys fees against the City for the action.”

“When noncitizens vote in an election, the voting rights of citizens are wrongly diluted,” Lacy said.

The lawsuit said school districts are funded with the taxes paid by each of the state’s taxpayers into the state’s general fund. When SFUSD spends taxpayer funds, it is not spending local taxpayer funds; it is spending state taxpayer funds. In this regard, everyone in the state has an interest in SFUSD’s expenditures. From that interest, everyone in the state also has an interest in ensuring that SFUSD’s governing board is elected in accordance with state law.

Lacy’s lawsuit said “While section 5 of article XI of the State Constitution gives charter cities power over their own municipal affairs, this section does not authorize Ordinance Number 206-21 because voter qualifications for school board elections are not municipal affairs.”

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Judge Strikes Down San Francisco Law Allowing Noncitizen Parents to Vote in School Elections

A San Francisco law allowing noncitizen parents to vote in local school board elections was overturned Friday by a judge who said the California Constitution permits only citizens to vote.

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

A lawsuit by conservative organizations cited a provision of the state Constitution that declares, “A United States citizen 18 years of age and resident in this State may vote.” Lawyers for the city contended the “may vote” language did not prohibit a local government from authorizing others to vote, but San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Ulmer disagreed.

“Transcendent law of California, the Constitution … reserves the right to vote to a United States citizen, contrary to (the) San Francisco ordinance,” Ulmer said in a ruling that prohibits the city from enforcing the ordinance or counting noncitizens’ votes.

Based on the logic of the city’s argument, he said, “children under 18 and residents of other states ‘may also’ vote in California elections, which our Constitution does not allow.”

If the Constitution used the word “shall” instead of “may,” Ulmer said, it would require everyone 18 or older to vote. Mandatory voting is the law in some nations, such as Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Egypt and Thailand, but not in the U.S. or any of its states, the judge said.

He also cited a state law passed by the Legislature that specified, “A person entitled to register to vote shall be a United States citizen.” Such laws “address matters of statewide concern: education and voter qualifications,” and cannot be overridden by a local government, Ulmer said,

Ulmer had signaled his views at a hearing Thursday, when he told a lawyer for the city that the power of charter cities such as San Francisco to regulate municipal affairs “does not override the Constitution.”

James V. Lacy, who challenged the ordinance along with his organizations, the United States Justice Foundation and the California Public Policy Foundation, said the ruling was “a verdict in favor of election integrity in California.”

Jen Kwart, spokesperson for City Attorney David Chiu, said the ruling is disappointing.

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