COVID-19 School Closures Undermined Learning

Whether California’s schools should remain open or be closed was a hot issue when the COVID-19 pandemic was raging in 2020 and 2021.

Although medical authorities quickly concluded that children had a much smaller risk of being infected or experiencing severe effects if infected, California schools were mostly closed, in large measure because teachers and their powerful unions insisted on it.

With schools closed, local administrators scrambled to provide on-line classes, what became known as “zoom school,” but they were poor substitutes for the real thing — especially for English-learner students and those from poor families.

Those children — roughly 60% of the state’s nearly 6 million public school students — were already trailing their more privileged contemporaries academically when the pandemic hit. The closures made it worse, for obvious reasons.

They tended to lack internet access and proper equipment for on-line classes. Their parents were often compelled to work outside the home to make ends meet, so kids were often left to fend for themselves. Absenteeism from on-line classes was widespread.

Affluent parents, particularly those who could easily work from home during the pandemic, made certain that their kids attended on-line classes, helped them with their school work, formed informal collaboration groups and/or hired tutors. Thus, the ill effects of closures were mitigated. And, of course, private schools, such as the one Gov. Gavin Newsom’s kids attend, either remained open or minimized closures.

For months, politicians from Newsom downward quarreled over how the schools should function and angry parents formed the core of a movement to recall him from office. Newsom survived the recall, but the educations of millions of kids did not, as new data confirm.

While the state Department of Education has not released 2022 academic test data that would allow comparisons with pre-pandemic results, individual school districts are doing so and the numbers from the state’s largest school district, Los Angeles Unified, are stunning.

About 72% of the district’s students are not meeting state standards in math and 58% are behind in English, essentially wiping out five years of progress that it had recorded prior to the pandemic.

“The pandemic deeply impacted the performance of our students,” LAUSD Supt. Alberto Carvalho said. “Particularly kids who were at risk, in a fragile condition, prior to the pandemic, as we expected, were the ones who have lost the most ground.”

While the district released gross data, it did not break down the test results by ethnic or economic subgroups. The Los Angeles Times, however, gleaned the detail from a school board document marked “not for public release.”

Why the secrecy? Apparently it was to mask the particularly disturbing data about Black and Latino kids.

“About 81% of 11th-graders did not meet grade-level standards in math. About 83% of Black students, 78% of Latino students and 77% of economically disadvantaged students did not meet the math standards,” the Times reported.

We won’t know how the state as a whole fared until — and unless — the Department of Education finally releases 2022 complete “Smarter Balance” test results. But there’s no reason to believe that what happened — or, more accurately, what didn’t happen — in Los Angeles isn’t also true of other systems, particularly those with large numbers of at-risk students.

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters

District Attorney Declines to File Charges After Sexual Assault Investigation into Democratic Chair

San Diego County prosecutors will not file sexual assault charges against Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, the chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party.

“After a thorough review, we determined that no charges could be filed in this case,” San Diego County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Tanya Sierra said in an email on Friday. “We do not discuss our charging decisions except to say that we can only file charges when we believe we can prove them beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Rodriguez-Kennedy, who is currently on leave from his post, announced the district attorney’s decision in a press release on Friday. He repeated his denial of the sexual assault accusations lodged by an ex-boyfriend, adding that he had cooperated with investigators from both the San Diego Police Department and district attorney’s office.

“With this trauma behind me, I look forward to returning to my work in service of the public and my party,” Rodriguez-Kennedy said. “I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support I have received.”

Rodriguez-Kennedy’s leave of absence began in May, after the assault allegations became public in a Facebook post from activist Tasha Williamson. The accuser, who had turned to Williamson for guidance, said Rodriguez-Kennedy had sex with him while he was intoxicated and incapable of giving consent.

It’s still unclear when or if Rodriguez-Kennedy will return to his unpaid position as party chair.

Rebecca Taylor has been serving as acting chair during Rodriguez-Kennedy’s leave. Neither Taylor nor Ryan Hurd, executive director of the San Diego County Democratic Party, responded to an email by this story’s deadline.

Also unclear is the status of an internal investigation from the party itself. The party’s bylaws state its Ethics Committee shall conduct an initial review of any complaints against a party official within 14 days. After that review, the committee has 30 days to make a recommendation to the party’s Executive Committee, though that deadline can be extended.

The party said in a statement to KPBS in July: “The internal investigation process requires the information from the conclusion of the ongoing law enforcement investigation, and as such is still ongoing and cannot be commented on further.”

Click here to read the full article at KPBS.org

By Transporting Migrants, GOPGovernors are Exposing Democrats’ Hypocrisy

Next time, Joe Biden should be more precise when he calls for national unity. Because he and his fellow Democrats don’t like the kind of unity they’re getting from Republican governors. 

The decision by GOP leaders in Texas, Florida and Arizona to “share” their abundance of foreign migrants with northern cities and states that boast of their sanctuary status is apparently not a gift the Dems appreciate. In fact, the president and his party are so mad they’re setting fire to the welcome wagons. 

Shipping the migrants north is outrageous, a stunt, pure politics, they wail. The White House is making noises about assigning its chief partisan enforcer, Attorney General Merrick Garland, to stop it. 

That would be the height of irony because the same White House has for months secretly shipped tens of thousands of migrants around the country, often in the middle of the night with no notice to local officials. No Dems complained then, so where did their love go? 

Naturally, the media is eager to echo the left’s sudden pain, with Chuck Todd of NBC News showing why he deserves to replace Brian Stelter, late of CNN, as the most mocked man in television. Todd declared it “inhumane” to send 50 migrants to Martha’s Vineyard because it’s a “literal island that doesn’t have any infrastructure designed to help them at all.” 

Hillary Clinton can usually be counted on to say something ridiculous, and she didn’t disappoint. “Literally human trafficking” is what she called the Vineyard dispatch, the brainchild of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. 

Like Todd, Clinton not only doesn’t get the irony, she misses the point. 

The Dems running New York, Chicago, Washington, DC, and, yes, Martha’s Vineyard, are being hoisted on their own petard. 

They supported virtually unfettered immigration, but didn’t bargain on thousands of the world’s unwashed popping up in their neighborhoods. In aiming their fire at Republicans sending the migrants north, they’re only shooting the messengers. 

Their hypocrisy is a thing to behold and the GOP governors deserve an award for delivering a comeuppance for the ages. 

More broadly, Biden’s border fiasco is the latest proof that the left has plenty of fanciful ideas about creating paradise but none on how to govern in the real world. The defund-the-police movement led to a sickening surge in violent crime that continues as cops are demonized and criminals are coddled. 

Blunders piling up 

The war on fossil fuels led to the dramatic rise in oil prices and helped fuel the historic inflation eating family paychecks. Biden is so far detached from reality that he actually threw a party to celebrate yet another spending bill that will keep the inflation fires roaring. 

It is simply incredible how much damage he has inflicted on the nation in just 20 months. 

And now the blue havens are getting a taste of the disaster that is the open-border policy. Unprecedented waves of people are crossing over, including many who flew to Mexico from far-off countries, knowing they could simply walk into America. 

Immigration restrictions were a mainstay of both parties for generations, but the leftward shift of Dems led to less tolerance for barriers. Then, as with so many other issues, the presidency of Donald Trump saw them jettison common sense and go nuts as a form of protest. 

Radical activists began preaching the gospel of massive immigration as a key to social and racial justice. 

Biden, a sucker for anything anti-Trump, rejected his predecessor’s success in limiting illegal crossers and the abuse of the asylum system, which lets people stay in the US for years because of bureaucratic inertia. Making them wait in Mexico until their claims were adjudicated, as Trump did, persuaded many the dangerous trek north was not worth the risk. 

Biden foolishly dismantled those restrictions, stopped building the wall and essentially issued an invitation for the whole world to come to America. 

Click here to read the full article at the NYPost

California Governor Signs Sweeping Climate Legislation

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a sweeping package of bills Friday to expand California’s reliance on clean energy and reduce carbon emissions, moves he said further establish the state as a global climate leader.

The new laws include proposals aimed at reducing exposure to gas and oil pollution in communities of color, expanding clean energy jobs and accelerating the state’s timeline for getting most of its electricity from renewable energy sources. Newsom signed them following a record-breaking heat wave that forced California to rely more heavily on natural gas for its electricity production.

“We could talk about the way the world should be and protest it,” Newsom said while standing underneath an array of solar panels. “Or we can actually make demonstrable progress.”

State Sen. Lena Gonzalez, a Democrat, was an author of one bill aimed at protecting vulnerable communities from pollution coming from oil and gas production sites. It bans the drilling of any new oil and gas wells with 3,200 feet (975 meters) of homes, schools and other neighborhood sites and requires wells in those zones to enact stricter safety measures. Neighborhood oil drilling is prominent around Los Angeles and oil-rich parts of the Central Valley.

“The reason why we do this, first and foremost, is because some of us are parents,” said Gonzalez, who represents the southern part of Los Angeles County.

Another bill Newsom signed requires California to reach carbon neutrality by 2045, meaning it will remove as much carbon from the atmosphere as what it emits.

The state’s accelerated carbon reduction targets are a “big win for California,” Kassie Siegel, of the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund, said in a statement.

The oil industry has broadly criticized Newsom’s climate package, saying it will harm an industry that still provides many jobs throughout the state. California is the seventh-largest oil producing state.

Some environmental groups were critical as well, though for different reasons. Food and Water Watch California, a nonprofit aimed at addressing climate and water issues, opposed a bill in the package that creates a permitting system for carbon capture projects. Such efforts rely on technology to remove carbon from the atmosphere to store underground.

Critics of the technology say it’s dangerous, unproven and a means for oil companies to keep emitting.

“Carbon capture is a smokescreen for fossil fuel industry players to protect their bottom lines at the expense of our climate and communities,” Food and Water Watch California Director Chirag G. Bhakta said in a statement.

Newsom, a Democrat, also took the opportunity to swipe at Republican political leaders in Texas. He compared California’s energy production to that of Texas, another major producer, where a winter storm in February 2021 left millions without power.

“And they’re talking to us about keeping our lights on?” Newsom said of Texas.

Click here to read the full article at AP News

DeSantis: Newsom’s Hair Gel is ‘Interfering With his Brain Function’ Over Immigration Stance

The public feud between governors Gavin Newsom, of California, and Florida’s Ron DeSantis continues to make headlines.

This time, the issue stems from their two conflicting stances on immigration. On Thursday, Newsom slammed DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott for migrants being shipped across the country. Newsom announced Thursday that he has requested the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the migrant children being “used as political props.”

On Friday, DeSantis responded to Newsom’s criticism, saying the California Governor’s “hair gel is interfering with his brain function.”

Newsom issued a response on social media to DeSantis’ comments, saying the Florida Governor is “struggling, distracted and busy playing politics with people’s lives.” Newsom challenged DeSantis on a debate and vowed to bring his hair gel as the Florida Governor is allowed to “bring hairspray.”

The two’s contentious exchange comes just days after Newsom donated $100,000 to DeSantis’ opponent ahead of Florida’s gubernatorial race.

“You want to ask what my ‘why’ is in life? I don’t like bullies,” Newsom said back on August 25. “I didn’t like what DeSantis said about Fauci, that you may disagree with him, but to call someone pejorative terms because they’re short. Who the hell are these guys? What kind of people are they?”

Newsom also compared DeSantis to former President Donald Trump.

Click here to read the full article at FoxNews

Voters Push to Take Local Redistricting From Politicians

California’s independent redistricting commission has received generally good reviews for its new maps that voters are using to elect legislators and members of Congress in November. 

Voters who say they are disenfranchised want similar panels to draw their local districts — and they’ve gone to the Legislature to make that happen.

Three bills on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk would overrule local officials and require independent redistricting commissions in Fresno, Kern and Riverside counties, respectively. If he signs them, those panels would work on districts for the boards of supervisors in those counties, starting after the next Census in 2030.

“I think people are aware now of how politicians have been using political lines to keep themselves in power. I think people want to see that power in the hands of the people,” said Lori Pesante, civic engagement director of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, which sponsored Assembly Bill 2030 for the Fresno County citizens commission. 

“Redistricting is very much in the consciousness of the people, so I hope the conditions are ripe now for the governor to sign,” she added.

While Newsom vetoed a bill in 2019 that would have required all 21 counties with populations of 400,000 or more to establish independent commissions to draw county supervisor districts, then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed two other bills to create such panels just in Los Angeles and San Diego counties. Under current law, counties are allowed to use advisory or fully independent commissions, but aren’t required to have them. 

The 2022-23 state budget includes $1 million for the Riverside citizens redistricting commission.

“This failure of a majority of the Board of Supervisors to protect the voting rights of our Latino community illustrates why an independent citizens redistricting commission is needed to draw fair maps for Riverside County,” Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes, a Corona Democrat, said in a statement. She authored AB 1307 to create the Riverside commission and is vice chairperson of the California Latino Legislative Caucus. 

Advocates in Riverside County aren’t waiting on a new commission to draw fairer districts in the future. They’re suing to overturn districts drawn by the board of supervisors last year, alleging that the maps disenfranchise Latino voters by splitting them among districts. 

“What we saw happen in Riverside County was pure political self-preservation by the county supervisors,” said Michael Gomez Daly, executive director of Inland Empire United, a coalition that seeks to elect diverse candidates in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. “It had nothing to do with fair representation for the communities that they purport to serve.” 

Representative democracy? 

Riverside County is a prime example of the voting population shifts that can occur from decade to decade — and even more quickly. Within just one year during the pandemic, from July 2020 through July 2021, Riverside County gained 36,000 residents — the third highest county population gain in the nation. Even before that, the county saw 10% growth, with a couple of cities nearly doubling in size from 2010 to 2020.

It seems logical: The Inland Empire led the country in job growth after the Great Recession. It’s home to warehouses for retail giants such as Amazon, Walmart and Target. Housing is also more affordable than the rest of Southern California.

Riverside County’s demographics have also shifted, with increases in the Latino population and Asian populations, and decreases in the white population.

That’s why groups including Inland Empire United and the UCLA Voting Rights Project warned supervisors that the maps they were leaning towards would disenfranchise Latino voters. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit say their input on a map with two majority-Latino districts instead of just one was ignored. 

“For months, Riverside residents demanded the county to do the right thing and adopt maps that would lead to equitable and fair representation. Instead, the supervisors ignored the community and adopted maps that would ensure they had easier reelections,” Daly said in a statement in June. “The supervisors’ redistricting plan is a classic case of politicians putting their own interests over people.”   

The plaintiffs are calling on the board to rescind the current map, and adopt one that keeps communities of interest together.

Similar complaints are behind the bill for a Fresno County commission.

Critics said that supervisors approved a map that changed little from the 1991 version, despite a growing Latino population.

“Our county is changing, and Latinos now make up the majority of the population,” Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula, a Fresno Democrat, said in a statement when he introduced AB 2030. “We can no longer tolerate a process in which elected officials give lip service to following redistricting requirements, ignore public input, and then adopt a map that serves their purposes. This change is long overdue.”

The bill for the Fresno commission, however, is opposed by both the county and the California State Association of Counties.

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters

Newsom Calls for US Inquiry Into DeSantis and Migrant Flight to Martha’s Vineyard

Jenavieve Hatch

Gov. Gavin Newsom called Thursday for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to fly several immigrant families to Martha’s Vineyard.

“This is nothing more than a stunt, but it’s done with the cruel intention to humiliate and dehumanize children no older than the governor’s children themselves,” Newsom said in an interview with The Sacramento Bee editorial board.

“It’s a disgrace, it’s repugnant, and, I would argue, it’s illegal.”

Newsom sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland Thursday, imploring him to investigate any potential criminal or civil violations, particularly any “charges of kidnapping” after alleged “fraudulent inducement.”

Newsom called DeSantis and his fellow GOP governors “functional authoritarians,” and said that the Republican Party “has crossed the rubicon of any decency.”

The decision to fly the families to Martha’s Vineyard – the small, posh island off the coast of Massachusetts – was simply to “transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations,” Taryn Fenske, DeSantis’ communications director, said on Wednesday. Earlier this year, DeSantis advocated the Republican-led Florida Legislature to set aside $12 million for this exact purpose.

Newsom was joined by the Biden Administration, who also spoke out against DeSantis’ political maneuvering. But when asked if they were going to take legal action, said they will refer to the DOJ.

“There’s a legal way of doing this and for managing migrants. Republican governors interfering in that process and using migrants as political pawns is shameful, is reckless, and just plain wrong,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Thursday.

While DeSantis was sending the families to Massachusetts, Texas Governor Greg Abbott sent two buses of immigrant families to Washington, D.C., reportedly to a location close to Vice President Kamala Harris’ D.C. home.

Click here to read the full article at the Mercury News

County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl blasts sheriff for search of her home

‘I don’t think there is any question that this is political retaliation,’ Kuehl said of the probe, blaming political rival Sheriff Alex Villanueva

Los Angeles County sheriff’s detectives issued search warrants early Wednesday, Sept. 14, at the homes of Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and Civilian Oversight Commissioner Patti Giggans as part of an ongoing investigation into county contracts awarded to Peace Over Violence, a nonprofit run by Giggans.

The investigation included simultaneous raids at the offices of L.A. County Metro, Peace Over Violence‘s headquarters and the county Hall of Administration, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

A copy of the search warrant states detectives had permission to take computers, cellphones and other electronics from the supervisor and commissioner’s homes. From L.A. Metro and Peace Over Violence, the investigation sought contracts between the two entities for the operation of Metro’s harassment hotline, call logs from the hotline, any internal evaluations or audits of the hotline and communications between the two entities, Giggans, Kuehl and other local officials from 2014 to 2020.

“This case involves an investigation into an allegation of criminal conduct involving Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor Sheila Ann Kuehl and 3 “sole source” contracts awarded to a non-profit operating under the name ‘Peace Over Violence,’ ” the warrant states.

The Sheriff’s Department believes the case may involve conflict of interest, bribery, conspiracy and theft of public funds, according to the affidavit attached to the warrants.

“The purpose is to prove — or disprove — the identified parties involved in the allegations of criminal wrongdoing,” said Undersheriff Tim Murakami, who leads the sheriff’s public corruption unit, in a prerecorded video released the same day.

In response to the raids, Kuehl and other officials have accused Sheriff Alex Villanueva of using such investigations to attack his political adversaries.

“This morning’s storming of my home by deputies with bulletproof vests and tactical gear was an effort to harass, intimidate and retaliate against a public figure who has been an outspoken critic of LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva,” Kuehl said in a statement. “I am not the only such critic, and other courageous County leaders have also been the targets of this Sheriff’s vindictiveness.”

Murakami denied the sheriff played any role in the searches and said Villanueva “has been recused from the inquiry and delegated all of his responsibility and authority” to the undersheriff. However, later in the day, Villanueva sent a signed letter to the state Attorney General’s Office calling for an investigation into whether county counsel or the Office of the Inspector General tipped Kuehl and Giggans off about the search warrants ahead of time.

Detectives were met at the door by Giggans and her attorney, according to Villanueva’s letter.

In an interview, Kuehl said she received a late-night text message from county counsel about a rumor that her home was going to be searched the next morning. The next day, deputies pounded on her door about 7 a.m. and escorted her outside. The supervisor dismissed the investigation as a “thuggish attempt to intimidate and silence” her criticism of Villanueva.

“They can search through all of my computers and phones, they’re not going to find anything at all, because there wasn’t anything and there isn’t anything,” Kuehl said. “I don’t think there is any question that this is political retaliation.”

Heart of the probe

The sheriff’s probe into Kuehl and Giggans appears to follow a Fox 11 investigation in September 2020 that determined the harassment hotline received only a few dozen calls per month and effectively cost Metro about $8,000 per call.

Jennifer Loew, a former Metro employee whose complaint is the backbone of the sheriff’s case, previously alleged Peace Over Violence received the contract in 2017 via a behind-the-scenes push from Supervisor Kuehl, a close friend and ally of Giggans. Loew sued Metro in February 2020, alleging discrimination and conspiracy. The case was settled in November 2021.

Loew received nearly half a million dollars in exchange for her resignation from Metro and signed a nondisclosure agreement that bars her from speaking about many of the same individuals named in the sheriff’s investigation, according to her husband, Adam Loew.

In an interview, Adam Loew said he personally approached the sheriff with the allegations. “I have been pushing on this,” he said.

Kuehl attributed the sheriff’s investigation to the complaints of a “disgruntled” and “obsessed” former Metro employee. The affidavit attached to the search warrant redacts the name of the female witness, but the descriptions and allegations appear to match Jennifer Loew’s allegations.

The affidavit states that the unnamed whistleblower alleged former Metro CEO Phil Washington at one point ordered her to pay a $75,000 bill from Peace Over Violence “so he could later use that to his advantage when he needed a political favor from Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.”

Adam Loew denied his wife is “disgruntled,” adding that she continued to work at Metro until the settlement agreement was finalized last year.

Campaign contributions

The warrant further alleges that the $890,000 paid to Peace Over Violence from 2014 to 2020 came after campaign contributions were made to Kuehl from Giggans and other members of the nonprofit’s board.

Kuehl denied the allegations, saying she never voted on the contract and knew nothing about it until she was invited to a press conference announcing the partnership. The contracts were approved by Washington without the board’s involvement.

“There is nothing supporting this warrant,” she said. “The judge who signed it is a friend of the sheriff, so there were multiple searches today for virtually no reason.”

In response, Adam Loew pointed to a February 2016 email between Giggans and Madeleine Moore, Kuehl’s deputy for special projects, in which Moore offers ideas for the future hotline. Metro and Peace Over Violence first entered into an agreement in 2015 to create the “Off Limits” anti-harassment outreach campaign, according to Peace Over Violence’s website. The 24/7 hotline soft-launched in late 2016 and was fully revealed at a press conference that included the Board of Supervisors in January 2017, the website states.

“Even if she didn’t know at the time the contracts were happening, she was certainly made aware in 2019 and continued to allow the contracts to go on, knowing full well they were not bid,” Adam Loew alleged.

Kuehl’s office was unable to immediately provide clarification.

Peace Over Violence’s attorney did not return a call for comment. The nonprofit’s website, which addresses the allegations at length, states that Peace Over Violence followed the directions and guidance of Jennifer Loew throughout the contracting process.

Metro has similarly denied the Loews’ allegations repeatedly in the past.

“The main contract in question was managed by the employee herself, and her complaints were aired only after her subordinates were removed by Metro,” spokesman Dave Sotero told the Denver Post last year.

Sotero on Wednesday said Metro is fully cooperating with the Sheriff’s Department to comply with the warrants.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin, who also sits on the Metro Board of Directors, issued a statement blasting the investigation, according to City News Service.

“This is a bogus, vindictive, politically motivated witch hunt by a corrupt sheriff with a track record of abusing his power and trying to silence and intimidate his critics,” Bonin said. “Sheila Kuehl is a public official of the highest integrity and of remarkable accomplishment. Alex Villanueva runs a department notorious for violence, scandal and civil rights violations. He is scared of civilian oversight, defies civilian oversight and is abusing his power to get revenge on those who exercise civilian oversight.”

The Sheriff’s Department in a news release stated that its investigation “has been shared with a federal agency and they continue to monitor.” The department did not disclose the agency and declined to comment further. Adam Loew said he has spoken to investigators from the FBI about the matter.

Probe launched year ago

Detectives have been probing the contracts awarded to Peace Over Violence for more than a year. Similar searches at Peace Over Violence and Metro last year sought the same types of records as those outlined in the Wednesday search warrants. The new warrant states the statute of limitations is approaching and that computers and other items not provided in those previous searches could be “needed to complete this investigation.”

“For more than a year, the sheriff has been very upset with our critique of him and I think just took this opportunity to try again, to divert attention from his failure as the sheriff,” Kuehl said.

Court records indicated that the earlier investigation into Metro and Peace Over Violence, headed last year by Detective Max Fernandez, was presented much differently behind closed doors. Fernandez reportedly expressed doubts about the probe in emails and conversations with attorneys, court records showed.

In one email, Fernandez stated he does not believe Giggans did anything wrong.

“So officially I would like to say (in writing) that my opinion is that Ms. Giggans does not seem to have any fault in this matter,” Fernandez wrote in an email to Austin Dove, an attorney representing Peace Over Violence. “She is not a Politian (sic) and might have been tossed in the group hastily.”

In a statement, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, which typically handles public corruption cases of this type, distanced itself from the investigation, saying it had reviewed the case in September 2021 “and determined that the state of evidence at that time did not provide criminal conduct beyond a reasonable doubt.”

“LASD indicated that they would continue to investigate,” the statement read. “We have not had additional contact on the matter and were not consulted or aware of the search warrants that were served today.”

Because it wasn’t involved with the search warrant, the District Attorney’s Office does not “intend to defend it if challenged in court.”

Villanueva publicly supported the unsuccessful recall effort against District Attorney George Gascón and the two men have clashed numerous times over the last year.

Political retribution?

The timing and circumstances around the sheriff’s probe has raised concerns of political retaliation, particularly because of the involvement of Kuehl and Giggans, the executive director of Peace Over Violence and Kuehl’s appointee to the county’s Civilian Oversight Commission. The nine-member commission advises the Board of Supervisors and was created to increase transparency and accountability at the Sheriff’s Department.

Click here to read the full article in the Los Angeles Daily News

Election officials are the gatekeepers of our democracy: Natalie Adona and Neal Kelley

Election officials may not top the headlines every day, but without them, our democracy wouldn’t function. These county registrar of voters, city clerks, and volunteer poll workers are also our friends, family members, and neighbors. They not only embody our country’s commitment to government by and for the people, they are specially trained and equipped to ensure that every voter is heard.

As election officials, we know just how much work goes into ensuring that our elections are free, fair, and secure. We’ve also seen firsthand the challenges facing our public servants in recent years: the immense political pressure, intimidation, and disinformation that has fueled a disturbing uptick in violent threats. It’s a reality we must face and work together to address.

That’s why, with the midterm elections quickly approaching, now is the time for our leaders to act and provide the necessary resources and funding to protect our elections officials and keep elections safe in 2022 and beyond.

The continued spread of disinformation following the 2020 election has emboldened election deniers to act out against the very people safeguarding our democratic process. Fearing for their safety, and that of their families, an increasing number of election officials are leaving their jobs. In Gillespie County, Texas, which voted overwhelmingly for former President Trump in 2020, an entire elections office recently resigned, with officials citing threats and stalking as the primary driver for the mass departure.

During the past year alone, the Department of Justice has examined more than 1,000 threats made against election officials, finding that 11 percent were serious enough to merit a federal criminal investigation. The FBI, in recent testimony before the Senate, also said that the volume of incidents is so high that it does not have adequate systems in place to process them.

We’ve seen and experienced the kind of intimidation that has forced many of our peers to fear for their safety. And one thing is clear: our nation cannot wait for this inflammatory rhetoric to cross an even more dangerous line. We need to act quickly to protect the civil servants who keep our elections running.

A bipartisan group of senators recently introduced legislation aimed at updating the Electoral Count Act to make the election certification process less prone to the kind of manipulation or subversion that we saw after the 2020 election. This legislation is important, and we hope Congress passes it swiftly. That group also introduced a companion piece of legislation that would target anyone who threatens or intimidates election workers, voters, poll watchers, or candidates. The bill would increase the maximum penalty for such actions from one year in prison to two.

This is an important start, and we applaud the senators involved for paying attention to this issue, but we must do more to stop this harmful trend of harassment and intimidation so that we can truly protect the people running our elections.

That includes new funding streams, through the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, or the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), that election officials can utilize specifically for threat monitoring, safety training, privacy services, and home security.

Earlier this year, the EAC expanded the use of federal election security funds for physical security and social media monitoring at the state and local level. This is a step forward, but more federal resources are needed to combat ongoing threats and harassment against our election officials.

Collaboration among federal, state, and local officials can also help prepare specific plans of action. Looking at Orange County, by creating a task force with members from the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, state and local law enforcement, we have become better able to assess and address threats against poll workers and others. This kind of enhanced information sharing and coordination should be implemented across the country.

In several counties across the nation, calls to law enforcement regarding instances of intimidation are often met with questions such as, “Is this even a crime?” It’s vital that election officials and law enforcement work together proactively before elections, which should include training to increase their awareness of threats so they can become more effective in addressing them.

Additionally, we need more support systems in place for election officials to protect their physical and mental health. Harassment takes a toll. Counseling and emotional support should be offered to help workers on the front lines. Likewise, physical security should be offered to protect those at work and at home when their safety may be jeopardized.

Thankfully, we are beginning to see signs of progress around the country. Already, several states have either introduced or passed legislation aimed at protecting election workers. In Maine, a new law classifies threats against election workers as a crime and offers de-escalation training to civil servants. In California, a bill has been introduced to keep election officials’ home addresses private. In Washington state, it is now a felony to threaten election officials online.

Click here to read the full article at the OC Register

Democrat Running For State Controller Studied Socialism in Venezuela on a Trip in 2006

‘The last thing we need as California’s fiscal watchdog is someone who extolled the virtues of socialism’

Malia Cohen, a Democrat running for California State Controller, the state’s fiscal watchdog, traveled to Venezuela in 2006 to learn about Hugo Chavez’s socialist revolution, Fox News reported Tuesday. Cohen, who currently is a member of the California State Board of Equalization, made a 10-day trip to Venezuela for $1,250.

Fox continues:

Cohen’s trip to the country was documented in a CNN story about the group’s tour, with Cohen claiming that “revolutionary thought” is “generational” as it showed an image of her gazing at a mural featuring a quote from Venezuelan leader Simon Bolivar that roughly translates to: “The health of a Republic depends on the morality acquired by education of citizens in childhood.…”

“The revolutionary thought and mindset is generational,” Cohen told the outlet at the time. “What we see in the United States, and you really don’t see grandparents and parents and even young as active politically.”

“We always knew Malia Cohen was extreme, but we had no idea she was this extreme,” Lanhee Chen, the lead candidate for State Controller told the Globe.

“The last thing we need as California’s fiscal watchdog is someone who extolled the virtues of socialism,” Chen said. “The many Californians who fled socialist countries deserve to know why Malia took this trip and whether she still believes in ‘the revolutionary thought and mindset’ of Hugo Chavez’s brutal regime.”

Venezuela was once among the richest countries in the world, and maintained a robust constitutional democracy until Hugo Chavez’s brutal dictatorship dismantled all democratic institutions and destroyed the economy, forcing the Venezuelan people into extreme poverty.

“The Controller is California’s independent fiscal watchdog,” Chen explains on his website. “The person who makes sure that taxpayer money—OUR money—is spent as we’re told it will be. But that’s not happening now. In fact, the Controller can’t even tell us where she sent over $300 billion in payments in 2018 alone.”

Chen, the son of immigrants from Taiwan, earned four degrees from Harvard University, including a law degree and doctorate in political science. Chen has served in senior roles in both Republican and Democratic presidential administrations. Describing why he is running for State Controller, Chen says no one is watching out for the California taxpayer.

“We need new leadership that isn’t afraid to take on as much as $30 billion of fraud in our state unemployment insurance system,” Chen says. “Russian mobsters and convicted murderers like Scott Peterson shouldn’t be getting government payments, while single moms in need go without.”

The Controller manages the state’s checkbook – it is a very important and serious role in State Government.

The Controller is responsible for:

  • accountability and disbursement of the state’s financial resources
  • independently audits government agencies that spend state funds
  • administers the payroll system for state government employees and California State University employees
  • serves on 70 boards and commissions with authority ranging from state public land management to crime victim compensation
  • is a member of numerous financing authorities, and fiscal and financial oversight entities including the Franchise Tax Board and Board of Equalization
  • also serves on the boards of the nation’s two largest public pension funds

Cohen was on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and led efforts to divest the city’s pension fund from fossil fuels. She currently is a member of the Board of Equalization where she “works to provide tax relief for Californians reeling from the pandemic, while holding corporations accountable for paying their fair share,” Cohen’s campaign website says. She was born and raised in San Francisco, earned a BA from Fisk University, and a Master’s in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University.

Click here to read the full article at the California Globe