Congressional Maps Favor Democrats as California Completes Redistricting

WASHINGTON — The process wasn’t always pretty, but California’s redistricting commission has finalized its new map of the state’s congressional districts, largely sparing the Bay Area of major changes and overall favoring Democrats in the state.

The political boundaries that will dictate representation for the next 10 years will be officially transmitted to the secretary of state by the Dec. 27 deadline, paving the way for candidates to make final decisions about their futures by the March 11 filing deadline. The commission voted unanimously to approve its maps late Monday night.

The vote came after months of intense activity by the 14-member Citizens Redistricting Commission, which is made up of five Democrats, five Republicans and four independents. The group decided to set out to draw the map from scratch rather than base its drafts on existing boundaries, causing a lengthy process that required many different proposals and changes based on public input that continued up to the last hours before maps were approved.

The decennial process is dictated by the results of the U.S. Census, which were delayed by the pandemic and litigation, shortening the window in which the commission could draw maps. Ultimately, California’s population grew at a slower rate than the nation, costing the state one of its 53 seats in Congress and forcing changes to the map.

The lost seat will essentially come from the Los Angeles area, where population growth in the state was slowest, specifically near Long Beach. The impact of losing the seat, however, will be mitigated by the retirement the lawmakers who represent the area, Democratic Reps. Alan Lowenthal of Long Beach and Lucille Roybal-Allard of Los Angeles.

In the Bay Area, there will be some changes, though none that fundamentally jeopardize incumbents. Most of the changes reflect population shifts, including increasing diversity. The commission found it had legal obligations to draw districts with strong Latino populations in the Central Valley and South Bay, as well as Asian American communities in Silicon Valley. Ultimately 12 lawmakers will represent significant portions of the Bay Area, up from 10 in the current map.

The area of Richmond and Vallejo will be a new seat in the area, which will be the likely landing place for Democratic Rep. John Garamendi, whose current Walnut Grove north state district has been largely broken up among neighboring districts. Garamendi announced his candidacy in the district shortly after the commission approved the maps.

In the South Bay, Fremont Rep. Ro Khanna’s district with a high population of Asian American voters remains largely intact, but neighboring Silicon Valley districts will see some changes. Democrat Rep. Zoe Lofgren’s San Jose district expanded significantly south to include agricultural and Latino communities south of Gilroy in San Benito and parts of Salinas. Central Coast Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Carmel Valley, will also join the Bay Area delegation, as his district anchored by Monterey will expand to include some of South San Jose.

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

Manchin Kills Build Back Better and Gives Nation – and Republicans – A Big Win

In chess, a gambit is when a player sacrifices a piece, usually a pawn, early in a game to obtain some larger competitive advantage. We can now say that the 13 Republicans who voted in early November to pass the infrastructure bill pulled off one of the most effective political gambits in recent memory. 

When Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., confirmed on Sunday that he is a no vote on the gargantuan Build Back Better spending bonanza, essentially killing it, it was vindication for the much-pilloried moderate GOP votes for infrastructure.

To be sure, there was much to object to in the infrastructure bill, from electric charging stations to tree equity, but for all its faults, there was also a lot of hard infrastructure in the legislation. Nineteen Republicans voted for it in the Senate, and it was widely popular with voters. Put another way, politically, sacrificing by conceding on the infrastructure bill was like giving up a pawn.

BIDEN, DEMOCRATS FACE A BLEAK FUTURE AFTER SQUANDERING THE LAST 11 MONTHS

Build Back Better, on the other hand, was the queen of Biden’s domestic agenda, a bill so far-reaching that it threatened to encroach upon every corner of the chess board of American life. And how did House Republicans topple that queen? Precisely by decoupling the infrastructure bill from Build Back Better. 

Let us not forget that throughout the summer and fall House progressive Democrats, most notably the Squad, held the passage of the infrastructure bill, Manchin, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s baby, in the palm of their hands. They demanded that the bills be passed together. It looked as though we were surely headed to some compromise that would pass infrastructure and also pass wide swaths of the social spending package.

But when infrastructure passed with GOP votes the House progressives were left out in the cold to kick rocks. Their leverage evaporated in an instant. And yet still, at least to hear Speaker Nancy Pelosi. D-Calif., and President Joe Biden talk, it seemed likely some compromise would emerge on Build Back Better. That the president’s domestic agenda just crumbled into dust is the most total victory Republicans could have hoped for.

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Electorally, the baker’s dozen of supposed GOP “traitors,” who flanked the Squad and ate their lunch, are all in better positions to hold their mainly purple districts in 2022. One race that is typical is in Staten Island and Brooklyn where Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis will face a rematch against former Congressman Max Rose. A no vote on infrastructure would have been hammered by Rose, as the bill brings a lot of money and jobs to the district. That line of attack is gone now.

Click here to read the full article at FoxNews

USC Student ‘Diversity’ Senator Under Fire for Tweet Threatening to Kill Zionists

A student “diversity” representative at the University of Southern California is under fire for a series of explosive tweets, including one that threatened to kill “every motherf–ing Zionist.”

Yasmeen Mashayekh, a “diversity, equity and inclusion” senator to the Viterbi Graduate Student Association posted the now-deleted tweet in May, according to Fox News.

The USC student has a history of pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel tweets including one from June that said: “If you are not for the complete destruction of Israel and the occupation forces then you’re anti-Palestinian,” according to Fox.

She has also tweeted her support for Hamas, whose military wing is considered a terrorist organization. In May, Mashayekh tweeted “Yes I f–king love hamas now stfu,” Fox said.

“Zionists are going to f–king pay,” she reportedly said in a tweet on June 21.

Mashayekh doubled down on her tweets on a podcast by Palestine in America on Dec. 2, saying she feels no obligation to apologize.

More than 60 current and former USC faculty members drafted a letter to the school’s leadership, calling on them to “publicly and explicitly rebuke Yasmeen Mashayekh for her offensive behavior and to distance USC from her hateful statements.”

Click here to read the full article at NYPost

Did California Get Its Money’s Worth From $1.7 Billion COVID Test Contract?

The Valencia lab, a public-private venture between the state and PerkinElmer, processed only 1 to 8% of all Californians’ COVID tests in the first 10 months of the contract. And the lab was riddled with dozens of problems, according to an inspection report.

A patient sample that wasn’t processed for more than 30 days. A test used without proper validation of its accuracy. Patient results changed without notification. Safety and disinfection procedures called into question. 

These are just a few of the myriad problems at the Valencia Branch Laboratory, a public-private COVID-19 testing lab operated by PerkinElmer that the California Department of Public Health hired in a no-bid, $1.7 billion annual contract.

An inspection report released last month by the health department outlines major problems dating back further than a year ago, raising new questions about how the state is spending taxpayer dollars to combat the pandemic. The report shows the lab has routinely underperformed, failing to meet the contract’s goals for turnaround times and numbers of processed tests. But the state auto-renewed the year-long contract at the end of October.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and state health officials say the laboratory has been crucial to expanding the state’s testing capacity for schools and underserved communities. 

But California’s two largest school districts — Los Angeles Unified and San Diego Unified — aren’t relying on the lab because it was unavailable when they needed it. 

A CalMatters analysis shows each test at the PerkinElmer Valencia lab costs the state more than three times the amount the Los Angeles Unified pays a Bay Area startup, SummerBio.

Already, the state has paid more than twice as much to PerkinElmer for 5.5 million tests as LA Unified’s total projected $350 million cost for the entire school year. The school year is less than half complete, but LA Unified already has administered 7.4 million COVID tests while never using the state’s PerkinElmer lab.

In the 10 months following its October 2020 opening, the lab processed between 1 and 8% of all COVID-19 tests administered in California each week, according to available data archived by CalMatters. During the first week of December, the lab processed roughly 8.5% of California’s tests, according to the most recently available data.

PerkinElmer, a global testing diagnostic company, did not respond to a request for comment about the cost of the testing and the reported problems at the lab.

“CDPH probably should have canceled (the contract) because honestly, there’s other vendors out there. They’re doing it for a lot less money more efficiently.”

STATE SEN. SCOTT WILK

State health department officials, in an unsigned statement in response to questions, said the PerkinElmer contract was renewed because of the potential for a winter surge and continued need for testing.

But the health department’s report, which was released eight months after officials indicated it would be completed, revealed that inspectors from the state’s Laboratory Field Services threatened sanctions for major deficiencies just 10 days before the contract was renewed.

The state public health department “probably should have canceled (the contract) because honestly, there’s other vendors out there. They’re doing it for a lot less money more efficiently,” Republican Senate minority leader Scott Wilk, who represents the area surrounding Valencia, told CalMatters. 

Wilk has been the most outspoken critic of the contract, repeatedly calling on the Newsom administration and the health department to halt the auto-renewal. Wilk said his office is working on a proposal to reform the no-bid contracting powers that the Legislature granted Newsom at the beginning of the pandemic. 

“I think there have been abuses there,” Wilk said. 

Public health experts and advocates say despite the lab’s troubles, it provides critical testing for smaller school districts, rural counties and underserved communities. Roughly 62% of tests processed at the lab are from communities of color, with about a third from the state’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods, based on the California Healthy Place Index.

In Madera County, for instance, the lab allowed the county and its partners to ramp up testing in a speedier time frame. 

“Valencia has been a net positive for Madera County. Residents would have been at a significant disadvantage without the combination of the Valencia lab and state contracts like the one with OptumServe,” said Sara Bosse, Madera County’s public health director.

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters

California Redistricting Commissioner Misses Key Meetings

On the day California’s independent redistricting commission approved and released to the public long-awaited draft political maps, one of the panel’s 14 members was missing for the bulk of the key meeting.

Commissioners spent seven hours on Nov. 10 reworking draft legislative, congressional and board of equalization lines that, once finalized, will be used for the next decade. Antonio Le Mons, a No Party Preference commissioner from Studio City who now has a Rancho Mirage address, logged on late and didn’t participate in the process, video recordings and transcripts show. But before voting to approve the draft lines, he congratulated his fellow commissioners for the accomplishment.

“I’m very proud to have been a part of this process with my fellow commissioners,” he said. “This has been quite a journey in the heart of a pandemic, and I think we should all feel very good.”

This wasn’t the first time Le Mons logged on late or missed a meeting before important deadlines. The commission has marked Le Mons absent for roll call in 16 of 44 hearings since October, as members met for marathon line-drawing sessions. Commissioners have until Dec. 27 to send certified maps to Secretary of State Shirley Weber before they’re used in 2022 statewide elections.

Sometimes, as happened on Nov. 10, Le Mons was marked absent during roll call before arriving late. The commission, according to spokesperson Fredy Ceja, records attendance only to establish a quorum at the start of a meeting.

The nonpartisan panel comprises five Republicans, five Democrats and four No Party Preference voters selected during a lengthy process that began in 2019. Commissioners are charged with drawing lines using census data that “provide fair representation for all Californians” under ballot measures voters approved in 2008 and 2010 to strip the Legislature of redistricting power.

Le Mons’ commissioner profile outlines 25 years of nonprofit and private sector leadership. He’s listed as the chief operating officer of the Skid Row Housing Trust, a Los Angeles-based organization that helps homeless, disabled and poor people, along with those struggling with drug addictions, to find permanent shelter. Le Mons is also, according to his commissioner biography, a former member of the California Assn. of Marriage and Family Therapists. He now runs a personal coaching and consulting firm.

He is also a co-star on streaming channel Fox Soul’s “The House,” a show that premiered Oct. 8 and focuses on Black LGBTQ issues. It’s unclear when filming began or if it coincided with commission responsibilities.

Most commissioners have missed a meeting, and some more than one, though it’s difficult to determine how many under the commission’s record-keeping system. Certain members also participate more than others, and many turn off their cameras during meetings. Republican commissioner Derric Taylor was marked absent for nearly as many meetings — 14 — as Le Mons over the last few months. Ceja said Taylor started a new assignment with additional responsibilities in his role at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Ceja said he did not know why Le Mons had missed meetings.

Click here to read the full article at LA Times

‘Big Lie’ Proponent John Eastman Uses Christian Crowdfunding Site To Raise Money For His Legal Bills

A lawyer who spoke at the Jan. 6 rally, spreading the lie that Donald Trump won the 2020 election, is now using a Christian crowdfunding site to raise money for his legal fees. 

Originally, John Eastman set a $100,000 goal for the fundraiser on GiveSendGo. Upon reaching that objective in just a week, he upped the target to $150,000. He’s now topped that amount by $271, having raised money from 2,179 donors. The crowdfunding site which launched around 2014, says it is “meant to give Christians the opportunity to be supported by the body of Christ.”  

An attorney and former dean of Chapman University’s law school, Eastman represented Trump in legal challenges to the 2020 election. In November, the House’s Jan. 6 committee subpoenaed Eastman. Earlier this month, he declined to testify, asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, according to Politico, which cited a letter Eastman’s attorneys sent the committee. 

Click here to read the full article at Forbes

California Democrats Embrace Tough-On-Crime Rhetoric

“It is time that the reign of criminals who are destroying our city … come to an end. And it comes to an end when we take the steps to be more aggressive with law enforcement … and less tolerant of all the bulls—t that has destroyed our city.”

“We need to … ensure that those who commit crime are held to account and that no one gets a free pass.”

“The need for a system that can … alert law enforcement to vehicles associated with violent crime, in real time, has never been more apparent.”

“Once we had the issue of a lot of folks coming to Melrose to do crime, we said, ‘We have to hit this with everything we have,’ so we put in some extra funding.”

“I will not wait out this holiday season and let these organized groups continue to believe they can prey on California shoppers and retailers with no repercussions.”

These Tuesday comments did not come from Fox News commentators or even California conservatives. They came from California Democrats — San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Attorney General Rob Bonta, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz and Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin of Thousand Oaks, respectively — signaling a definitive shift in the party’s approach to crime ahead of the 2022 elections.

Case in point were the politicians’ Tuesday announcements:

The tough-on-crime rhetoric comes amid a sea of sobering statistics: Oakland police on Monday announced they’re investigating the 131st homicide of the year — the city’s highest total in a decade. And a Tuesday report from the Public Policy Institute of California found that homicides, aggravated assaults and violent and property crime rates in Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego and San Francisco are all up in 2021 compared to last year.

Also cracking down on crime is the state Employment Development Department, which announced Tuesday that it has suspended payments on certain disability insurance claims and is subjecting medical and health providers to increased vetting to halt “a recent move by organized criminal elements to file false disability insurance claims.” The department, which has already confirmed paying at least $20 billion worth of fraudulent claims, said its actions would help prevent “further fraud” but could result in longer wait times for legitimate claimants.

This article originally appeared on CalMatters

House Votes To Hold Meadows In Contempt

WASHINGTON — The House voted on Tuesday to hold former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with a special committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, setting the stage for possible criminal prosecution of an advisor to former President Trump.

The vote, 222 to 208, was the second time in recent months that the House had held a former Trump advisor in contempt, and it was the first time since the 1830s that the chamber had leveled such a sanction on one of its former members. Two Republicans joined all Democrats present in voting for the measure.

“Mr. Meadows is a central participant and witness to the events of Jan. 6,” Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), a member of the House committee investigating the insurrection, said before the contempt vote. “If he can get away with ignoring the law, and witnesses summoned before Congress can merely pick and choose when they comply, our power of oversight will be gone.”

The contempt vote came a month after the House took the same action against Stephen K. Bannon, alleging the the Trump confidant and former White House advisor had refused to comply with the House committee’s subpoena for information and testimony. Bannon was indicted by a federal grand jury last month on two charges of contempt of Congress. He is set to go on trial in July.

The House action against Meadows followed a 9-0 contempt vote on Monday by the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol. Lawmakers on the panel said Meadows initially provided 9,000 pages of records before refusing to provide more records or show up for a deposition last week. They said Meadows is uniquely positioned to provide information to discuss the role Trump and the White House played in inciting the riot and responding to it.

“We’ve given Mr. Meadows every opportunity to cooperate with our investigation,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House panel, said Tuesday. “We’ve been more than fair. He’s brought this situation on himself. But there is no doubt in my mind that he’s in contempt of Congress and has to be held accountable.”

Republican House members countered that Democrats were pursuing the contempt charges for partisan reasons. Just two of the nine Republicans who voted to hold Bannon in contempt did so on Tuesday. Meadows served as a GOP House member from 2013 to 2020, when he took over as Trump’s chief of staff.

“He is a good man, and he’s my friend. This is as wrong as it gets,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said before the vote. “Your lust for power, your lust to get your opponents is so intense that you don’t care.”

Meadows’ attorney, George Terwilliger III, has asserted that the former White House advisor cannot comply with the subpoena for two major reasons. As a former top presidential advisor, Meadows shouldn’t be compelled to testify before Congress because it might result in staffers wary of providing candid advice to presidents.

He also said Meadows did not wish to undermine Trump’s assertion of executive privilege, a legal doctrine that has allowed presidents to withhold certain confidential communications from public disclosure.

Meadows “has fully cooperated as to documents in his possession that are not privileged and has sought various means to provide other information while continuing to honor the former president’s privilege claims,” Terwillger said in a statement Tuesday before the vote.

Citing executive privilege, Trump has sought to block the National Archives from turning over his White House records to the House committee. His case suffered a setback last week when a federal appeals court rejected his arguments, setting the stage for those documents to be given to Congress if the Supreme Court declines to intervene.

The House panel, which has two Republicans, has interviewed more than 300 witnesses and subpoenaed more than 40 people as it seeks to paint a clearer picture of the day’s violence and what contributed to it.

Goaded on by Trump’s months-long, falsehood-filled campaign that the 2020 election had been stolen, hundreds of his supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, hoping to block the certification of President Biden’s electoral college victory. More than 700 people have been charged by federal prosecutors in the Capitol riot.

Click here to read the full article at LA Times

Mayor Breed Wants to Flood Tenderloin With Police To Confront Drug Dealers — And Those Using Drugs

Mayor London Breed wants to significantly boost the police presence in the Tenderloin over the next few months as part of a public safety blitz, which includes a crackdown on those who are selling drugs — and those who are using them — in the long-troubled neighborhood.

On Tuesday, Breed called for increased funding for police overtime to help pay for the move, which includes tackling the resale of stolen goods. She told residents last week that she believes policing is an “important tool” to address some of the neighborhood’s woes, which include widespread drug dealing, a surge in fatal overdoses and a spike in gun violence.

“It’s time that the reign of criminals who are destroying our city … come(s) to an end,” Breed said at a news conference in City Hall on Tuesday, flanked by department heads and Supervisors Catherine Stefani and Ahsha Safaí. “It comes to an end when we take the steps to be more aggressive with law enforcement, more aggressive with the changes in our policies and less tolerant of all the bulls— that destroyed our city.”

The Department of Emergency Management will lead the two- to three-month intervention that officials hope will result in more sustainable changes. Increased spending for police overtime is just one component of the plan, which will also focus on basic infrastructure needs like more cleaning, public toilets and streetlights.

But the push for more officers will likely draw the most attention, landing amid a national reckoning over the role of police in vulnerable communities. It also marks a shift in messaging from the Breed administration, which for the past year has focused on creating programs that remove law enforcement from interactions with those struggling with homelessness, mental health issues and drug use.

Breed’s public safety plan comes as the Tenderloin continues to grab national headlines and the mayor feels heat to get the city’s spiraling homelessness and overdoses crisis under control. It also lands a day after the mayor announced a plan to rein in the school board. Both initiatives could score her political points, but have also sparked criticism.

The mayor’s office said overtime pay will also be used for other priorities, such as deterring retail theft in Union Square. Breed also introduced legislation Tuesday, co-sponsored by Safaí, to tackle reselling of stolen goods on the streets by prohibiting street vending in existing “problematic” areas such as UN Plaza and requiring vendors to post approved permits.

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

Merced Irrigation District Sues California over ‘Water Grab’ for Fish, Downstate Users

The Merced Irrigation District, a regional water authority in the San Joaquin Valley, is suing the State of California over a plan to divert water from the Merced River watershed to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta for fish and downstate use.

As Breitbart News reported in 2018, the state’s Bay-Delta Plan aims to increase the amount of fresh water in the delta, also known simply as the “California Delta,” which has suffered from increasing salinity in recent years.

The Merced Irrigation District (MID) alleges that the plan is simply a “water grab” that will take water from local users and send it to the delta, to satisfy environmental interest groups — many of which have no connection to the state — and Southern California users.

The MID has conducted its own scientific studies to suggest that declining salmon populations in other parts of the state are not due to water diversion, but rather to the arrival of alien predators and other development activities, such as mining. The MID has also negotiated with the state in the past to provide its own salmon habitat restoration — while keeping the water.

But the state has decided to go ahead with its plan, though it has not yet said how much water it plans to divert from the Merced River, which is a tributary of the San Joaquin River that flows from the Sierra Nevada, including Yosemite National Park, through the rich Central Valley farmland before joining the main watercourse northward to the Delta.

MID officials have set up a “Save Merced’s Water” website to gather signatures from residents to stop the diversions from moving forward.

“Our perspective is we didn’t create [California’s] water quality problems,” [MID spokesperson Mike] Jensen said. “It shouldn’t be our responsibility to bear the brunt of fixing them.”

Click here to read the full article at Breitbart Local