Reparations Task Force: State Could Owe Black Californians Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars

California’s task force on reparations has begun putting dollar figures to potential compensation for the various forms of racial discrimination, generational pain and suffering Black Americans experienced in the state. 

The rough estimates by economic consultants may mean that hundreds of thousands of dollars could be due to Black Californians who are descendants of enslaved ancestors. However some politicians on the task force indicated the reparations would be a difficult case to make.

Task force member and state Sen. Steven Bradford, a Democrat representing South Los Angeles, told an audience at public meetings in Los Angeles over the weekend it would be a “major hurdle” to pass any reparations plan in the Legislature. 

“For a state that didn’t have slavery, don’t think they’re going to be quick to vote on this final product of this task force,” he said. “We need to stay unified, we need to be together. We aren’t always going to agree, but we have to put forth a unified front.” 

Meeting in the California Science Center Friday and Saturday, the nine-member state-appointed group invited a team of economic experts to describe reparation ideas in financial terms. It was the group’s first gathering since June, when the task force released a 500-page report on the state’s history of slavery and racism.

In March the task force voted to recommend to state leaders that if California makes some form of reparations available, they should go to Black Californians who can establish lineage to enslaved ancestors, rather than to those who are more recent immigrants, or descendants of recent immigrants. The reparations could be in the form of cash, grants, tuition assistance, loans or other financial programs, the task force said.

At this meeting, the task force described several scenarios for which Black Californians could receive monetary compensation.

Reparations calculations

For instance, the task force considered redlining, a practice of denying mortgages to Black homeowners and of devaluing residential property in primarily minority neighborhoods.

The four economic consultants calculated that each Black Californian who lived in the state between 1933 and 1977 experienced a “housing wealth gap” of $223,239, or $5,074 for each year in the period. The experts said that number — which is the difference between the average value of all homes in California and the value of Black-owned homes  — could be considered for reparations.

Such calculations are far from final, the consultants said, and there is no total estimate, though it is based on all 2.5 million Black California residents today, they said. The consultants said they haven’t calculated how many people would qualify for each type of reparation. 

The consultants are William Darity, an economics professor, and A. Kirsten Mullen, a researcher, both at Duke University in Durham, N.C.; Kaycea Campbell, an economics professor at Pierce College in Los Angeles; and William Spriggs, chief economist for the AFL-CIO and a Howard University professor. 

For another example of injustice, mass incarceration, the consultants calculated potential income lost by incarcerated Black Californians from 1971, the beginning of then-President Richard Nixon’s announced “War on Drugs,” until today. The economists pointed to many studies showing Black people were incarcerated far beyond their numbers in the general population.

Without discussing guilt or innocence, the economic consultants estimated that incarcerated Black residents were out $124,678, or $2,494 a year, for unpaid prison labor and years of lost income. The consultants mixed into the calculations the average salaries of California state workers and the $15,000 that some Japanese Americans received in reparations after their internment during World War II, from 1942 to 1945.  

A ‘rough’ analysis

One of the most pervasive forms of racial injustices Black Californians faced is disproportionate health outcomes. The economic consultants noted that Black Californians have the shortest life expectancy of any racial group at 71 years, which is 7.6 years shorter than whites. Black Californians also faced higher death rates from cancer than other racial groups, and Black mothers were four times more likely to die in childbirth than any other group. 

Although there is no actual price tag on a year of life, for statistical purposes some economists use a $10 million valuation for a person’s entire life. This group of economic consultants calculated the dollar amount of the gap in life expectancy for Black Californians to be worth $127,226 per year.

The consultants’ dollar estimates are “rough,” Campbell said Friday.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

Hundreds of Local Officials Failed to File State Financial Reports, County Records Show

Even though annual financial disclosures are critical to promoting open government and limiting potential conflicts of interest, hundreds of public officials and consultants neglected to file their required State Form 700 reports this year, county records show.

Experts say the disclosures, which thousands of public officials must file annually under the Political Reform Act, are an important way to keep voters informed.

Regulators also take issue with public officials who fail to report their assets, revenue and any gifts they receive, often imposing penalties that reach into the thousands of dollars.

When The Union-Tribune reported last month that Jesus Cardenas, chief of staff to Councilmember Stephen Whitburn, owns a political consulting firm that serves clients with interests before the city of San Diego, the information was largely based on public disclosures.

Two years ago, the newspaper reported on conflicts in financial statements filed by front-running San Diego City Council candidate Kelvin Barrios. The stories derailed his campaign, and Barrios dropped out of the race.

State Form 700 was also cited by the City Attorney’s Office during litigation over the city’s lease of the Ash Street office tower. Lawyers for the city said broker Jason Hughes should have submitted while advising three successive mayors on real estate deals — and collecting $9.4 million in fees.

This year, according to the clerk of the county Board of Supervisors, who is charged with tracking local compliance with the Form 700 filing rules, 224 elected and appointed officials countywide did not submit the annual Form 700s by the April 1 deadline.

“The clerk of the board took numerous steps to ensure filers filed timely,” clerk Andrew Potter informed supervisors in a memo this spring.

Reminder notices were sent to all non-compliant officials in February and twice in March, notifying them of the looming deadline and encouraging them to comply with state law, Potter said.

Subsequently, “these individuals are being referred to the district attorney and the FPPC (Fair Political Practices Commission) for noncompliance,” he wrote.

The hundreds of non-filers in San Diego County range from members of the grand jury and employees of the regional planning agency SANDAG to school districts and a tiny North County water authority.

Some county agencies also appear on the list, including the Local Agency Formation Commission, which regulates boundaries between public agencies, and the Leon L. Williams Human Relations Commission, which promotes mutual respect and integrity.

Michael Workman, the spokesperson for San Diego County, said it is the employers’ responsibility to maintain current and accurate lists of people who are required to submit a statement of economic interest. He said the county will work with agencies that seek guidance.

“All agencies that file with us have access to a management module where the lead coordinator for Form 700s can update the information for their agency’s filers,” Workman said by email. “In the fall of each year, we reach out to all agencies to ask that they update their filers’ information to ensure the notifications are sent to the filers appropriately.”

SANDAG — which led all local agencies in number of non-filers, with more than 80 experts and consultants on the list — said its obligation is to inform members of the filing requirement, but the county is responsible for determining their filing status.

“None of our board of directors or policy advisory committees are on the list,” spokesperson Stacy Garcia said by email. “For working group members, SANDAG follows up with staff liaisons to reach out to any listed members to ensure compliance.”

Garcia said the planning agency would follow up with — and possibly penalize — consultants who have yet to report their financial interest as required.

“SANDAG policy is to restrict non-filer consultants from working on or participation in any project or program under their contract(s),” she wrote. “SANDAG follows up with its consultants to ensure compliance with the filing requirements.”

The Southwestern Community College District, with 10 administrators and consultants who did not submit annual disclosures, said officials had sent the county their list of required filers in March but college officials acknowledged it was not correct.

“The district was able to add requisite employees but was unable to delete employees/ consultants who were no longer employed by the district as of calendar year 2022,” spokesperson Lilian Leopold said in a statement.

“Your list reflects those employees/consultants,” she added. “The county clerk must not have updated their list per our updates.”

Workman contradicted the Southwestern Community College District response.

“The county does not have any record of Southwestern College providing updates to their list of filers,” he wrote. “The individuals that Southwestern College indicated are no longer employed are still required to file leaving-office statements.”

An Oceanside Unified School District official also blamed San Diego County for the 11 names appearing on the clerk’s record.

“The list you provided is filled with errors and needs to be updated,” spokesperson Donald Bendz said in an email. “The only three people who are still with OUSD are Sherry Freeman de Leyva, Perry Alvarez (and) Raquel Alvarez. Their statements of economic interest forms have been turned in.”

The county confirmed that two filings were turned in after the Union-Tribune asked Oceanside schools officials about the non-filers.

“We received electronic filings from Perry Alvarez and Raquel Alvarez, who both filed their forms (Tuesday),” Workman said. “We still do not have a filing for Sherry Freeman de Leyva.”

According to her LinkedIn social media profile, Freeman de Leyva is retired from the Oceanside Unified School District.

Sean McMorris of California Common Cause, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting good government practices, said the Form 700 disclosures are critical in the system of checks and balances that makes up public administration.

The annual reports help prevent conflicts of interest and promote transparency by requiring public officials to declare their salary ranges, property holdings, stocks and other investments and gifts from companies or organizations, he said.

“We want our public officials to conduct business based on the best interests of the public, not themselves,” McMorris said.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission, which enforces the Political Reform Act rule requiring the annual disclosures, takes violations seriously. Almost every month, the commission imposes penalties on local and state officials who fail to disclose their personal holdings.

Earlier this month, for example, a former planning commissioner in the Central Valley city of Sanger was fined $12,000 for failing to submit a Form 700 disclosure after being contacted about the oversight more than 20 times.

Commission spokesperson Jay Wierenga said regulators had no record of receiving the list of non-filers from San Diego County, but the enforcement team was running some of those names through their database.

He said the disclosures are critical to informing the public about the potential motivations driving elected officials and policymakers.

“The law in California rests on a few basic tenets, one of which is disclosure,” Wierenga said. “Form 700s are there not only to provide transparency to the public but also to hold public officials accountable in their decision-making.”

The District Attorney’s Office confirmed it received the memo from the San Diego County board clerk but has not yet taken any action on the information.

Click here to read the full article in the San Diego Union Tribune

California Governor Rejects Mandatory Kindergarten Law

Beyond what they learn academically in kindergarten, students learn everyday routines: how to take care of class materials and how to be kind to their peers, according to Golden Empire Elementary School kindergarten teacher Carla Randazzo.

While developing those skills became more difficult for students going to school online during the pandemic, occasionally, a student entering first grade at Golden Empire didn’t attend kindergarten at all, Randazzo said. Nearly two-thirds of students at the Sacramento school are English learners.

“Those kids just start out having to climb uphill,” she said. “They need a lot of support to be successful.”

Randazzo always thought it was “peculiar” that kindergarten is not mandatory in California. For now, though, California won’t join 20 other states with mandatory kindergarten. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, vetoed legislation Sunday night that would have required children to attend kindergarten — whether through homeschooling, public or private school — before entering first grade at a public school.

As he has with other recent legislative vetoes, Newsom cited the costs associated with providing mandatory kindergarten, about $268 million annually, which he said was not accounted for in the California budget.

Newsom has supported similar legislation in the past. Last year, he signed a package of education bills, including one transitioning the state to universal pre-K starting in the 2025-26 school year. But the state’s Department of Finance opposed the mandatory kindergarten bill, stating it would strain funds by adding up to 20,000 new public school students.

Proponents of mandatory kindergarten say it could help close the academic opportunity gap for low-income students and students of color, as well as help children develop important social skills before the 1st grade. The bill was introduced after K-12 attendance rates dropped during the pandemic and some students struggled with online learning. 

Kindergarten enrollment in California dropped nearly 12% in the 2020-21 academic year compared to the previous year, according to the state Department of Education. Nationwide, public school enrollment dropped by 3 percent in 2020-21 compared to the previous school year, with preschool and kindergarten enrollment dropping at higher rates, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. 

Samantha Fee, of Citrus Heights, said her 7-year-old son could solve practically any math equation during the 2020-21 school year, while he attended kindergarten online. But by the end of the school year, he still couldn’t read and didn’t know all his letters.

She said the family made the difficult decision to have her son, who attends Golden Empire, repeat kindergarten to prepare him for first grade. 

“They learn a lot in that first year — how to sit at their desks, and how to raise their hand and all that they’re expected to know in the first grade,” Fee said. “Without kindergarten, they don’t have that.”

Click here to read the full article in AP News

Agencies gave back funds for homelessness

Housing officials failed to utilize nearly $150 million of HUD grants to city, county.

Nearly $150 million worth of federal grants to the three main housing agencies working to reduce homelessness in Greater Los Angeles went unspent between 2015 and 2020, as the number of unhoused people soared.

Instead of being used to address L.A.’s acute homelessness crisis, the money was returned to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to data provided to The Times by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. More than 85% of the returned funds were earmarked for sorely needed permanent supportive housing.

LAHSA returned more than $29 million to HUD during the six-year period; the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles returned more than $82 million; and the Los Angeles County Development Authority returned nearly $38 million.

Asked why so much federal money went unspent, LAHSA spokesman Ahmad Chapman said in an email that, while the data are “imperfect,” his agency operates “in a climate where the rental market is so hard to access, it makes it very challenging to use all these resources.”

But the amount given back to HUD by the three agencies over the six years is more than the total amount of grants the federal housing agency awarded them in 2020, $133.1 million.

“Given the need in L.A., we want every single dollar utilized,” said Molly Rysman, LAHSA’s chief programs officer.

That’s not a realistic short-term goal given HUD’s “rigid” and “complex” funding system, which can make it difficult to spend funds quickly or reallocate money that can’t be used for its initial purpose, Rysman said. Instead, some of those federal dollars go unspent.

“We’ve said this to HUD over and over again,” she said. “We need a lot more flexibility.”

In emailed statements, the county and city housing authorities blamed their underspending on a range of issues. The county housing authority cited insufficient workable housing units and client referrals, poor credit and rental histories among the homeless population, and program attrition.

The city housing authority pointed to landlords’ unwillingness to rent to homeless people, the city’s tight rental market, and high unit turnover rates. It also blamed shortfalls by “program partners” in key areas including referrals, housing search assistance and case management.

A HUD spokesperson said in a statement that “[t]here are many reasons that HUD may recapture” funds. “In some cases, new projects take time to start up, and are not fully operational in time to expend their initial grants. Recipients may also have challenges finding housing units.”

The amount of money L.A. County’s continuum of care program returns to HUD annually has fallen from $30.2 million for grants that expired in 2019 to $21.1 million for grants that expired in 2021, according to a July LAHSA memo. The program is ledby LAHSA and coordinates housing funds for homeless people.

The memo described the recent decrease in unused HUD money as a “positive trend resulting from the sustained partnership and collaborative efforts aimed at improving the use of” the funds.

But affordable-housing developers decry the return of any funds, blaming red tape and government inefficiency for their underuse. Many say they could immediately use some of that money to house Angelenosin desperate need of assistance.

Deborah La Franchi is founder and chief executive of SDS Capital Group, which finances permanent supportive housing projects across Greater L.A. She said she was dismayed to learn that millions of federal dollars for permanent supportive housing are being returned each year by LAHSA and the city and county housing authorities.

“When Angelenos see funding reverting back to Washington, D.C., for homelessness when we have a homelessness crisis in our backyard, it creates a lack of confidence that the right solutions are in place,” she said.

::

Washington View Apartments is a stucco-and-tile complex in South L.A.’s University Park neighborhood, tucked between Crypto.com Arena and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum south of downtown. Its 122 units sit on an underused historic site once occupied by the city’s first full-service funeral home.

The complex has four new, multistory apartment buildings. It is a 1¼-acre example of:

The difficulties inherent in paying for and building permanent places to live for the more than 69,000 homeless people in Los Angeles.

The confusing web of government funding supporting that effort.

How HUD money could be used immediately — but often isn’t.

Over the last two months, dozens of previously unhoused people with disabilities, acute medical conditions, addiction or mental disorders have moved into permanent supportive units at Washington View.

“I really wanted it to be low-income because of my dad,” said developer and financier Fariba Atighehchi of L.A.-based Western Pacific Housing, choking up as she walked through the complex’s sunny courtyard. “It was his dream to do low-income housing. He never did it.”

As in other supportive housing complexes, residents have been chronically homeless, and the rent they pay each month is based on their income, which is often little more than a Supplemental Security Income check. A dedicated nonprofit partner provides on-site social services, addiction and mental health treatment, and other assistance for residents.

But not everyone who has moved into the Spanish Colonial Revival-style property in recent weeks is subsidized by a permanent supportive housing voucher.

Thirty of Washington View’s apartmentsare simple low-income housing units with no associated supportive services. That’s because, Atighehchi said and records show, for more than two years, the city and county repeatedly denied the development team’s requests to provide enough vouchers for all of Washington View’s units to include supportive services.

The rules for awarding project-based vouchers such as the ones Washington View sought impose a variety of limits, including on the percentage of units that can typically be subsidized by the vouchers.

But housing agencies across California and the U.S. often grant exemptions to the requirements, and the reasons given for denying Washington View’s requests ranged from a lack of available vouchers to the project’s location near a highway interchange. The development team was left with no choice but to move forward with just 91 supportive units.

If some of the money the city or county housing authorities gave back to HUD had instead been used to fund the complex’s final batch of requested vouchers or otherwise back the project, Atighehchi said, all of its apartments would soon be occupied by formerly chronically homeless people receiving assistance for their most urgent needs.

It would also allow her and her partners on the project to recoup their multimillion-dollar investment and pour the funds into other affordable housing projects they are developing in L.A. and San Bernardino counties.

But it’s not quite that simple, said Rysman of LAHSA. One of the main reasons HUD funds go unspent in L.A. is because “the money isn’t going to the most useful things,” she said.

“If what you want to see is more housing supply for people who are homeless, which is truly what we need,” Rysman said, HUD should fund more project-based vouchers, which pair rental assistance with specific housing units instead of with individual tenants.

“If we had more project-based vouchers,” she said, “we would have way more building.”

At the same time, Rysman acknowledged that her agency “probably need[s] to do a lot more” to pursue the repurposing of funds that go unspent.

The Housing Authority of the City of L.A. and the L.A. County Development Authority did not provide responses to detailed lists of questions about the unspent federal housing dollars.

The total cost of funding the additional 30 vouchers for Washington View would be about $300,000 per year, estimated the project’s development team, led by Atighehchi.

“All I need is 30 vouchers for these people that are coming in and they’re so happy,” she said.

::

Had the agencies that provide housing to those in need disbursed more of the federal money they returned to HUD, more people like Angel Martinez could have a roof over their heads and the services they need to survive.

Ever since he moved into Washington View Apartments last month, Martinez has taken to playing “Prenda del Alma” and other songs of his youth on his cherry red Fender acoustic-electric guitar in a park down the street.

His one-bedroom apartment is the first permanent home the 63-year-old has had since shortly after his last carpentry job ended more than a decade ago.

Martinez keeps pen and paper in his front button-down pocket to jot down lyrics for his own baladas. For decades after he moved to Long Beach from Mexico at age 25, he had always found ways to make ends meet. But that was no longer the case after the bottom fell out of the U.S. housing market.

“Remember 12 years ago there was no work for nobody?” asked Martinez, who was born in Los Angeles but grew up in Mexico. “It was 12 years ago. I know that because I always relate to my granddaughter’s age. When she was born, that was when everything happened. She’s 11 years old now.”

The construction industry took years to rebuild after the subprime mortgage crisis and Great Recession. During that extended downturn, Martinez lost his livelihood and his home. Sometimes he slept on the grass in parks around town. He lived in a truck for a while. He spent a few months in a shelter.

At the same time, his health was deteriorating. Diagnoses piled up. Today, Martinez suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure, and shoulder and back problems. He has an ulcer and a hernia.

So after he was released several months ago from the emergency room at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach, where he’d been treated for severe stomach issues, a social worker helped get Martinez off the street.

“Nowadays it’s so difficult even to rent a room in a house. Some people ask for $1,000,” he said. “I cannot work. … How can I make that kind of money? It’s impossible.”

But as a disabled, low-income senior, he was eligible for one of Washington View’s permanent supportive housing units via one of the 91 HUD-funded vouchers the complex has been granted to subsidize the rent for such apartments.

Without the placement, Martinez said, he would still be in a medical rehab facility, waiting to find out where he’d be living.

“This is a miracle. And I’m going to keep it this clean all the time,” he said, as he sat on a sleek gray couch that came in the furnished unit, along with amenities such as central air conditioning and a dishwasher.

“When they don’t have a place like this … they send people to the shelters in downtown L.A.”

::

Diane Reed barked instructions at a pair of movers, as they loaded furniture, racks of clothing and other belongings from her 10-by-15-foot storage unit into a first-floor Washington View apartment.

“Just put it right there, and the TV stand’s going to go over there where that black chair is,” she told them one morning in early September, pivoting around her new open-concept living area. The 65-year-old beamed, recounting the perks of her new apartment: high ceilings, untouched oven and refrigerator, no more roommates.

Her apartment is in the same complex as Martinez’s, but supportive services are not included. Reed’s is standard affordable housing, meaning that income — not disability status or medical or mental health issues — was the key criterion necessary to qualify for her unit.

She also had to have been previously unhoused, a stipulation for any project financed in part by L.A.’s Proposition HHH Supportive Housing Loan Program, which voters approved in 2016 to help drive more permanent supportive housing development. Washington View received a $12-million loan from the program in 2018.

Affordable housing subsidized by HUD’s Section 8 program is in short supply. It’s a necessary part of the solution to the housing crisis that for decades has helped provide shelter for thousands of Angelenos. But the need is not as great and the circumstances of people such as Reed who move into standard Section 8 units are not typically as dire as those who move into permanent supportive housing.

For about two decades Reed didn’t earn enough to afford her own place. She “slept in and out,” often crashing at family members’ homes, before she was selected via lottery to move into Washington View.

“I waited a long time. I’m so overwhelmed. It is a big day,” said Reed, who was born and raised in L.A. and has three adult children and five grandchildren. “It feels good to have your own space.”

As with other Section 8 housing, Reed’s rent is subsidized by HUD; she pays only 30% of her income to live in the apartment. But her apartment is not supportive housing; it’s one of the 30 affordable apartments that could instead be occupied by some of the very neediest people.

People like Daniel Castro, who never had his own apartment before he moved into a small one-bedroom permanent supportive housing unit at Washington View last month.

A self-described longtime “transient,” Castro said his kidney was removed when he was 8. Fifty-one years later, he suffers from a host of health problems, from scoliosis and hypertension to an enlarged prostate and chronic kidney disease.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least 21 markers indicated bullet casings at the scene.

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

California Governor Urges Overhaul of Democrats’ Strategy

California Gov. Gavin Newsom called for an overhaul of Democrats’ political strategy on Saturday, saying the party is “getting crushed” by Republicans in part because they are too timid, often forced to play defense while Republicans “dominate with illusion.”

Speaking at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin, Texas — the territory of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, one of Newsom’s chief political foils — Newsom was careful to praise current party leaders like President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

But he said that mantras that may have worked for the party in the past — like Michele Obama’s famous quip “when they go low, we go high,” — simply don’t work today because “that’s not the moment we’re living in right now.”

“These guys are ruthless on the other side,” Newsom said. “Where are we? Where are we organizing, bottom up, a compelling alternative narrative? Where are we going on the offense every single day? They’re winning right now.”

Newsom said that’s why — even though he is running for reelection as governor of California — he has been spending some of the millions of dollars in his campaign account on TV ads in Florida urging people to move to California, newspaper ads in Texas decrying the state’s gun laws, and putting up billboards in seven states urging women to come to California if they need an abortion.

“There’s nothing worse than someone pointing fingers. What are you going to do about it?” Newsom said. “The reason we’re doing those ads is because … the Democratic Party needs to be doing more of it.”

Of course, the main reason Newsom can do those things is because he faces little pressure at home. Newsom is likely to cruise to a second term as governor of California in November, facing a little-known and underfunded Republican challenger one year after defeating a recall attempt.

Newsom’s actions have increased speculation he might be running for president, an idea he has repeatedly denied — doing so again on Saturday in Texas. Asked if he was considering running for president in 2024 or 2028, Newsom said: “No, not happening.”

“I cannot say it enough,” he said. “I never trust politicians, so I get why you keep asking.”

Newsom said that President Joe Biden’s first two years in office have been “a master class … on substance and policy.” But later, he said good governance, by itself, is not enough to win elections — adding that “otherwise Biden would be at 75% approval.” In reality, about 53% of U.S. adults disapprove of Biden, according to the most recent poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The problem for Democrats, Newsom said, is that they “fall in love so easily” with “the guy or gal on the white horse to come save the day.”

“We missed a more important paradigm that leadership is not defined by that person in formal authority, it’s defined by people with moral authority every single day,” he said.

Newsom’s aggressiveness could end up helping Abbott, who is locked in a more competitive race with former Congressman Beto O’Rourke. Kenneth Grasso, a political science professor at Texas State University, said there has been concern among some in the Republican Party that Abbott is “not conservative enough.” Newsom’s attacks against Abbott “only helps him with those people,” Grasso said.

“If you stress that they’re right-wingers, you call them extremists, using that kind of language, all you are going to do is enhance their popularity in their own base,” he said.

Despite that risk, Texas Democrats seem to be welcoming Newsom’s attention.

“I like this guy,” Texas Democratic Party chair Gilberto Hinojosa said of Newsom. “I like the way he’s showing the contrast between what y’all do in California and what the narrow-minded, extremist positions that occur here in the state of Texas.”

Click here to read the full article in AP News

California’s Education Revolution

‘Schools have kids for 9 months out of the year; parents have their kids for a lifetime’

Many parents want to know why public school teachers can’t just let their kids be kids without forcing sex and an inappropriate sexual agenda on them in grade school, middle school and high school.

This, as well as the Critical Race Theory agenda, is what led to the astounding parent revolution first witnessed in Virginia, but now never so prominent as it is in California.

California lawmakers even passed the quixotic Assembly Bill 367 by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), the Menstrual Equity for All Act of 2021, which now requires that one boys’ bathroom in every middle and high school have tampon dispensers.

Christopher Rufo with the Manhattan Institute and City Journal, has chronicled the shocking sexualization of school children as young as pre-kindergarteners. And it’s not the birds and the bees radical teachers are exposing the kids to.

In his most recent report, Rufo exposes the National Education Association promoting a how-to guide for “anal sex,” “bondage,” “sadomasochism,” and “fisting” in public schools.

Rufo says the NEA and its local affiliate in Hilliard, Ohio, which have been providing staff in the Hilliard City School District with QR code-enabled badges, “which point to the “NEA LGBTQ+ Caucus” website and resources from gender activist organizations including Scarleteen, Sex, Etc., Gender Spectrum, The Trevor Project, and Teen Health Source.”

Rufo continues:

One of these linked resources, Teen Health Source’s “Queering Sexual Education,” which promises to “empower youth” and includes a how-to guide for performing “anal sex,” “bondage,” “rimming,” “domination,” “sadomasochism,” “muffing,” and “fisting.” The materials are extremely graphic, explaining how to, for example, “[put] a fist or whole hand into a person’s vagina or bum.”

The Teen Health Source page would make the most hard-as-nails, grizzled longshoreman blush.

This is a screen capture of the NEA LGBTQ+ website, showing the partners: CTA, the  California Teachers Association labor union, as well as California Casualty, auto and home insurer.

It appears that the more parents reveal the fanatical sexual agenda in public schools, the more extremist it becomes.

California is ground zero for all around wackiness

President of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network, and education analyst Larry Sand, writing recently in American Greatness, reports on a recently published PDK International survey which reveals that only 50 percent of all adults have confidence that teachers can teach civics, and just 38 percent believe that they can handle “gender/sexuality issues.”

“What could possibly be causing such negativity?” Sand asks. “For the most part it is due to the ‘woke’ revolution that is impacting the lives of American children.”

Sand explains that California, “ground zero for all around wackiness is where the state puts its stamp on an endless parade of perversity.” He offers these examples:

  • In Los Angeles, the school district proudly hosts a “Rainbow Club,” which is a 10-week district-wide virtual club for “LGBTQ+ elementary school students, their friends and their grown-ups.” The poster specifies that it is for children in TK-5th (“TK” or transitional kindergarten is comprised of 4-year-olds.)
  • A high school teacher in the Capistrano school district has a “queer library” in her classroom. It is filled with over 100 books—some of which contain sex imagery, information on orgies, sex parties, and BDSM.
  • Also, the state’s education department is recommending books to young students that teach expanded sexualities and gender identities. For example, the state recommends “Julian is a Mermaid” for preschoolers and kindergarteners. The book describes a young boy who wants to be a sea-dwelling creature, after he sees a parade of people dressed up as mermaids while out with his grandmother. The boy puts on lipstick, makes himself a mermaid costume, and his grandmother gives him a beaded necklace to complete his outfit.

This is fanaticism. But Sand correctly points out, “On a local level, parents hold the key.”

“The grassroots parents revolution is real and it is going to erupt in all parts of California,” Lance Izumi, the Senior Director of Education Studies at the Pacific Research Institute, told the Globe. He continued:

“It was parents in San Francisco who threw out far-left extremist school board members who were totally out of touch with the education concerns of the community. Now you are seeing slates of parents running for their local school boards popping up all across California. These parents are fed up with the politicized curricula and ideological indoctrination their children are receiving. They are also fed up with the special-interest agenda of the teachers unions, plus the wholesale failure of the public schools to improve the achievement of their children. Parents have brought their energy to school board meetings and have demanded that their districts be accountable and transparent. Now they will be bringing that energy, focus, and commitment to the polls in November. I predict that there will be wholesale turnover in school boards in many districts and that parents will end up holding the reins of power. It will then be up to them to effect real change in the public schools and ensure that children and parents come first.”

California Superintendent of Public Instruction

The outsider candidate for California Superintendent of Public Instruction, Lance Christensen, told the Globe Wednesday, “everything that touches education curriculum comes from the Superintendent’s office,” as the Superintendent sits on the California Board of Education.

Christensen, a father of five said:

“As education policy continues to spiral to things inconsistent with community values and parents’ desires, they realized recourse was not coming from their school boards. No one else was going to stand up and save their kids.”

“So in the year of the parent, people are stepping up to fight for kids and bring sanity back to schools,” Christensen said. “I personally endorse anyone running for school board who supports parents rights and school choice.”

“And it is going to be at the local level that we take our schools back, and I am going to be the voice of that movement,” Christensen added. “Having a massive bully pulpit for parents’ rights is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The rights of parents

“This year, the rights of parents are on the ballot like never before,” Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Granite Bay) says on his endorsements page of school board races. Kiley recently announced he was supporting and endorsing outstanding pro-parent, pro-student candidates running for school board throughout California, and says he will continue to do so.

Kiley’s initial endorsements grew into his “Champions for Kids” directory, which is available on his website.

“The role of school boards has never been more important, and in the upcoming election we have an opportunity to set education in California on a new course,” Assemblyman Kiley said. “I’m proud to be supporting several hundred pro-parent, pro-student candidates for school board throughout our state.”

This catastrophic learning loss

Shawn Steel, California’s committeeman for the Republican National Committee, recently wrote an op ed at the Globeexposing the UTLA, the L.A. teachers’ union, which “strongly opposed standardized tests during the COVID-19 pandemic. That testing data could have sounded the alarm on the catastrophic learning loss caused by remote learning,” Steel said. “At every turn, UTLA aggressively blocked plans to reopen schools. In March 2021, 91 percent of UTLA members opposed reopening schools and remained in distance learning programs that were causing kids to fall behind.”

After denying that learning loss, the UTLA then opposed extra teaching days to help kids catch up. “There is no such thing as learning loss,” Cecily Myart-Cruz, president of United Teachers Los Angeles told Los Angeles magazine last year.

“This catastrophic learning loss should be the greatest concern for teachers. Instead, the top teachers’ union brass denies that it exists at all,” Steel said.

CA Teachers Union Did Oppo Research On Parents Who Wanted Schools To Reopen During COVID

The Globe recently reported that Reopen California Schools exposed via emails received through California Public Records Act requests that the California Teachers Association labor union conducted opposition research on parent groups pushing for school reopening during the government ordered COVID school shutdowns in California. Instead of a healthy reaction and response to so many parents’ concerns, the CTA doubled down and went on offense and politically targeted moms and dads protecting their children.

The Globe talked with Dry Creek School Board candidate Jean Pagnone (above) on why she made the decision to run for her school board – she definitively spells out her determination:

“I made the decision to run for the Dry Creek School Board when I realized that I could no longer watch state and local schools fail our children, parents, and teachers. Schools have kids for 9 months out of the year. Parents have their kids for a lifetime. I think one of the things we learned from the pandemic is that we don’t have the luxury of blind trust when we send our kids off to school each day. What we’re seeing are parents being ignored and not respected – whether it’s a lack of transparency on subjects that are controversial or sensitive or medical decisions that belong with the parent. I’ve also heard from a lot of teachers who have quit or are thinking of leaving because they aren’t comfortable with what they’re being told to teach. And let me tell you, there are a lot of great teachers out there who are fighting for the kids, but they cannot speak out publicly.”

Click here to read the full article in California Globe

California Attorney General Takes Over LA Corruption Probe

California’s attorney general on Tuesday took over a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department investigation of a county supervisor who had called the corruption probe an act of political retaliation.

California Assemblyman Rob Bonta listens during a news conference as California Gov. Gavin Newsom announces his nomination for state’s attorney general, Wednesday, March 24, 2021, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Attorney General Rob Bonta announced he was assuming all responsibility for the investigation into contracts awarded to a nonprofit group run by a friend of Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.

The state Department of Justice asked the nation’s largest sheriff’s department to stop its probe and hand over its evidence in the case.

The Sheriff’s Department released a letter that Bonta sent Tuesday to Undersheriff Timothy K. Murakami that said he has authority to take over investigations “in the public interest” and ordering the department to cease activity in the case, including making public statements or court filings.

For more than a year, the Sheriff’s Department has been investigating some $800,000 in contracts awarded by the county’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority to Peace Over Violence, a nonprofit organization that describes itself as a “social service agency dedicated to the elimination of sexual and domestic violence and all forms of interpersonal violence.”

The contracts were to operate a hotline for reporting sexual harassment on public transit.

The group’s executive director and CEO is Patricia Giggans, a friend of Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.

The Sheriff’s Department has said it was looking into whether Kuehl was improperly involved in obtaining contracts for the group.

Kuehl is a fierce critic of Sheriff Alex Villanueva and has called for his resignation. She appointed Giggans to serve on the Civilian Oversight Commission that monitors the Sheriff’s Department.

Both have denied wrongdoing in regard to the contracts.

Last week, sheriff’s deputies raided county offices and the homes of Kuehl and Giggans but a Superior Court judge has ordered the Sheriff’s Department to temporarily cease searching any computers and hard drives seized in the raids.

Kuehl and Metro challenged the validity of the search warrants, with lawyers for Kuehl writing in a court filing Monday that raids at Kuehl’s home and office were “politically motivated and retaliatory.”

The filing called warrants for those searches a “flagrant abuse of power and an offense to the rule of law.”

Villanueva had recused himself from the investigation but has discussed it in interviews and on social media as he campaigns for reelection.

Meanwhile, on the day of the raids, the sheriff asked Bonta to look into whether Kuehl and Giggans had improperly received advanced notice of the searches. In Tuesday’s letter, Bonta said he would look into the allegations but also was taking over the Sheriff’s Department probe.

“In recent days, the public unfolding of an unprecedented investigation has raised serious questions for residents of Southern California and beyond,” Bonta said in a statement released by his office. “I recognize the deep uncertainty this has engendered.”

Click here to read that the full article at AP News

In Nonpartisan Race for California Superintendent of Public Instruction, It’s All Politics

The superintendent of public instruction is the only nonpartisan statewide office in California, but it seems impossible to separate politics from the race between Democratic incumbent Tony Thurmond and Republican challenger Lance Christensen.

Neither shy away from stepping into the partisan fray.

As superintendent, Thurmond, who was elected in 2018 after a term in the California Assembly, has been in lockstep with Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom. He has promoted LGBTQ-inclusive books in school libraries amid fights against them in some Republican-led states; issued a statement supporting abortion rights after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade and launched discussions about institutional racism after the police killing of George Floyd.

Christensen, an education and government affairs director for the conservative California Policy Center, has railed against Newsom, teachers unions, comprehensive sex education, critical race theory and masks in schools during COVID-19. Unlike Thurmond, he opposes a November ballot measure to secure abortion access in the California constitution.

Christensen, who also has state Capitol experience as a staffer to Republican lawmakers, said that politics don’t matter in the race for state superintendent. 

“I’m not running as a Republican. It’s not partisan, it all comes down to ideology,” he said. “My ideology is such that I just really believe that parents own their children and have full control over them, not some bureaucrat.”

Thurmond disagrees that the politics don’t matter. 

“I think that he’s articulating dangerous messages that actually would have a negative impact on many of our students. We need to prevent young people from being coopted in these hateful messages,” Thurmond said of Christensen. “If you come in attacking teachers as he has, attacking social groups, how is he going to build any coalition to support the important work that needs to be done?”

For Thurmond, who has had a tumultuous first term as superintendent, Christensen’s politics could work in his favor. 

Thurmond has endorsements from the influential California Teachers Association and the California Democratic Party in a state where a likeminded supermajority reigns. Those endorsements come despite allegations of a toxic workplace and criticism for hiring a friend on the East Coast to helm a top-paying state Department of Education position.

Thurmond’s team pointed to Christensen’s affiliation with the Bradley Impact Fund as one reason why he should not be elected. According to his 700 forms, last year Christensen was paid $2,050 by the conservative organization, which has promoted baseless election fraud claims in support of former president Donald Trump.

Christensen said that “is not relevant at all,” and though he is outspoken about his conservative views, he laments the focus on his political stances that aren’t directly tied to the operation of California’s K-12 schools and success of its near 6 million students.

“Donald Trump has zero to do with what I’m trying to accomplish here, but because I have an ‘R’ behind my name, that’s what they’re going to hit me with,” Christensen said.

Unlike in most states, the superintendent of public instruction in California is elected by voters instead of appointed by the governor. 

The superintendent oversees the California Department of Education, which employs more than 2,000 employees and ensures schools stay in compliance with a slew of policies, including how they spend state dollars.

But local school boards and county superintendents have much say over what happens in their districts, and in many ways, the Legislature and state school board have more power over education in the state than the superintendent of public instruction.

Arguably, the SPI’s greatest power is the bully pulpit, as they can fight for the ear of the governor and lawmakers to influence policy and provide guidance to local districts.

If elected in November, Christensen said he will appoint a “chief parent advocate” to influence education policy. He has also vowed to audit state Education Department dollars to slim down “bureaucratic bloat”; overhaul what he calls archaic education code and give even more authority to district superintendents in a state that is already pro-local control. 

Thurmond, if reelected, has vowed to ensure that every current kindergartener — more than 450,000 students — can read by the third grade by 2026. Currently, less than half of California’s third-graders read at sufficient levels, according to the latest state test scores. The third grade is viewed by educators as a crucial academic marker when students go from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”

Thurmond also has goals of hiring 10,000 new counselors in schools. He pointed to legislation he sponsored to acquire funding in the latest state budget for programs focused on mental health workers as one of his proudest accomplishments, citing the need for emotional support for youth.

“The most important thing that a state superintendent can do is find ways to work with the governor and the Legislature to get resources for districts,” he said. “It’s about understanding all the parts of how you get policy done and how you get revenue.”

Christensen does not see Thurmond’s past as a state lawmaker as a benefit, but a detriment. Parents are tired of the status quo and lifetime politicians, he said. 

“They all universally say it’s not acceptable,” Christensen said of parents he’s met on the campaign trail discussing the state of public education in California. “[Thurmond] is absolutely ineffective.”

The odds are in Thurmond’s favor. He has 20 times more campaign funding than Christensen, raising $1.7 million in direct contributions alone. The California Teachers Association has put more than $1 million into an independent expenditure committee to reelect him. 

And not a single Republican has been elected for statewide office in California since 2006.

But incumbency has its downfalls too. Thurmond must answer tough questions about declining enrollment, a teacher shortage, alarming standardized test scores and how the state plans to correct pandemic setbacks. 

“Even though it’s not something I have direct control over, I knew day one that I would get blamed for all kinds of things that would be out of my control. But that’s OK, I’m deeply committed to having young people have success,” he said. “I don’t spend a lot of time trying to explain it away. At the end of the day, people have a right to be upset and we have to be very focused on that.” 

Christensen believes that voters care about Thurmond’s record enough to vote him out, including parents frustrated with the state’s handling of school closures and distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic under his leadership. Thurmond was criticized for not being out in front of pandemic issues, unlike superintendents in other states.

While Thurmond could have won the race in the June primary had he garnered enough votes, he fell short of the 50% needed, securing about 46%. Christensen came in second place, with nearly 12% of the votes.

This superintendent race pales in comparison to the 2018 election, when Thurmond and fellow Democratic candidate Marshall Tuck sparred in a close, $60-million competition focused on charter schools.

Like Tuck, Christensen supports charter schools — his children have attended them. Thurmond supported teachers unions in their fight against them, promoting a law signed in 2019 that cracked down on regulations and standards for the non-traditional public schools.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Inside the Team Pioneering California’s Red Flag Law

There were four more requests for gun violence restraining orders on Jeff Brooker’s desk when he arrived at the San Diego City Attorney’s Office that July morning.

Officers had responded to a minor car crash at a mall where the driver, who carried a replica firearm, was rambling delusionally and threatening to kill the “one-percenters” and a public official. Another man, during an argument outside a family member’s home, had pulled a gun out of his waistband and pointed it at someone’s head as several others looked on.

It was not an unusual number of new cases for the department’s eight-member gun violence restraining order unit, which Brooker oversees. In an average week, they triage 30 referrals from local police, reviewing scenarios in which officers believe a resident is at risk of committing gun violence.

About a third of the time — in those instances when the person clearly poses a danger to themselves or others, and they aren’t already prohibited from possessing weapons for another reason — the office will petition a judge to temporarily seize their firearms, under a six-year-old California statute that was among the country’s first “red flag” laws.

More than 1,250 times since the end of 2017, when San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott launched the pioneering unit, Brooker’s team has successfully filed a gun violence restraining order, leading to the seizure, as of April, of nearly 1,600 firearms from 865 people — far more than any other agency in the state. An estimated one-third of the weapons, most of which are handguns, have since been returned to the owners.

“Do you believe this person should have a gun? Your own sense is the best test,” said Brooker, who employs a cable television thought experiment to illustrate how he tries to depoliticize the highly charged red flag law: If a case hypothetically turns into a major news story, how might it be covered by both liberal MSNBC host Rachel Maddow and conservative Fox News anchor Sean Hannity?

“If this is a case they can agree on, this is the kind of case we’re going to file,” Brooker said.

These red flag laws, touted by advocates as one of the best tools available to prevent gun violence, received a renewed push this summer after a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, left 19 students and two teachers dead.

Congress responded by passing rare gun safety legislation, with bipartisan support, that could provide hundreds of millions of dollars to help states adopt or expand their own red flag laws. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia already have laws, but a recent analysis by the Associated Press found that many of those are barely used.

In California, which ranked seventh in number of cases per capita, San Diego has been a model.

With many jurisdictions still slow to adopt the use of gun violence restraining orders, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services announced in July that it would provide $1 million to the San Diego City Attorney’s Office to expand its training efforts to other law enforcement groups.

“We must work together to make sure our gun safety and red flag laws are being used to protect our communities. They’re being underutilized,” Attorney General Rob Bonta said at a joint press conference with Elliott last month. “Others should take San Diego’s lead — be aggressive, use the tool that is there.”

A pioneering program

While the California law allows police, close family members, housemates, employers, co-workers and school officials to seek a gun violence restraining order for someone they believe poses a danger to themselves or others, nearly all cases in the state are initiated by law enforcement. Assembly Bill 2870, now before Gov. Gavin Newsom, would expand the list of eligible petitioners to include more family members and people who are dating or share children with the gun owner.

A judge can immediately order the person to relinquish their guns and declare them ineligible to purchase firearms and ammunition for three weeks or, after a hearing, extend the ban to as long as five years. The person can then petition once a year to lift the order and have their weapons returned.

Under Elliott, San Diego has invested in its red flag program like nowhere else in California, with close coordination between the city attorney’s office and the police department to streamline the process for obtaining an order. Brooker’s team includes three attorneys, a paralegal, a legal secretary, a police officer and two retired police officers who work part-time as investigators, preparing cases for review.

Petitions for orders arrive around the clock, Brooker said. While police can obtain an emergency order directly from a judge to take someone’s firearms for 21 days, the city attorney’s office steps in to decide whether to pursue a longer-term seizure of a year or more. Brooker’s team is in court every morning filing paperwork and conducting hearings for new cases or existing orders that are expiring.

The investigators had already been in for several hours when Brooker arrived at their fifth-floor office, overlooking Civic Center Plaza in downtown San Diego. Informational packets were ready for several new petitions that had come in overnight.

Brooker’s corner office overflows with “Star Wars” memorabilia, including a signed poster of Princess Leia and an Obi-Wan Kenobi T-shirt sharing a coat rack with his jackets and ties. On his bookshelf, a tome about the original Star Wars trilogy abuts Shakespeare’s collected works and a copy of the Constitution.

His team’s goal is only to remove guns from a situation until it can be made safe, Brooker said, so sometimes they work with a person on a plan to return their firearms, rather than requesting to extend the order.

This is more common for threats of suicide, when the gun violence restraining order can provide someone with time to cool off and stabilize. If drug or alcohol abuse is involved, or if a person seems to have deeper mental disorders, Brooker said his team will likely ask for a longer seizure of their weapons.

“They’re not all bad people or criminals,” he said. “Some of them are just going through a period of crisis.”

Taking a cautious approach

The most common types of cases depend on what’s happening in the world. Brooker said that domestic violence, suicide, child abuse, protest threats and social media threats all picked up during the coronavirus pandemic. Around holidays, there are more domestic violence and suicide cases, while after any mass shooting, there are many potential copycats.

“If there was ever a time I was rethinking my life and career, it was in that month after Uvalde,” Brooker said. Schools were going into lockdown every day, graduations were being threatened and his team was out every night executing search warrants for weapons that a judge had ordered removed.

Brooker said he takes a cautious approach to filing cases, because he is concerned about blowback from gun rights advocates. Every petition is investigated by the retired police officers to ensure that the potential threat is not based on unvetted evidence or an old history of violence.

“I know they’re waiting for us to file one bad case so they can jump all over us,” he said. “That’s the case that’s going to bite us.”

Though the red flag law has not encountered widespread resistance in California, it does remain deeply controversial with gun rights activists. Critics argue that the law violates due process rights by allowing a judge to order someone’s firearms removed before they’ve ever had a chance to defend themselves and by requiring that person to go to court to get their weapons back. Groups across the country are eyeing new legal challenges to red flag laws, which have been consistently upheld in court, following a summer Supreme Court ruling that strengthened gun rights.

Sam Paredes, executive director of the advocacy group Gun Owners of California, called the law an “insincere” attempt to deal with gun violence, without dealing with the underlying mental health issues or other dangerous situations. 

“We don’t have an issue with trying to deal with people who are identified as a danger to themselves or others. We have an existing procedure to deal with that all the way,” Paredes said. “Gun violence restraining orders or red flag laws are nothing more than a political football that is being thrown around the field.”

Considered in court

When Brooker and a colleague arrived at the county courthouse at 9 a.m., they were ushered into the courtroom by the bailiff, who informed Brooker that none of his respondents had checked in yet.

“Good, because I’ve got two dismissals and a continuance today,” Brooker replied.

While Superior Court Judge Adelaida Lopez led the parties and witnesses through an oath, Brooker was on his phone, writing notes about how he expected the cases to go and taking another quick read of the files to be prepared for any questions. In between, he checked his email and snuck a peek at a few photos from his son who had just moved to Switzerland for college. 

Brooker’s cases were among the first to be heard. In one, a man had told police he was trying to drink himself to death. While he didn’t have any firearms that the officers knew of, they wanted to obtain a gun violence restraining order to prevent the man from legally buying one in a moment of desperation.

Brooker asked for another continuance, giving his office more time to serve the defendant with a notice of the hearing.

“We tried him using soft contacts first for officer safety and obvious reasons, so there is due diligence, I can assure you,” Brooker said.

Lopez granted another 21-day continuance. Then Brooker moved to his next case, where the defendant had also been put under a mental health hold, which would prohibit him from possessing firearms and make a gun violence restraining order unnecessary.

“I think we can take it off the calendar. And will that result in a dismissal?” Lopez said. “Item 32 is dismissed. That protective order is dissolved.”

“Very good. Thank you, Your Honor,” Brooker said. The whole proceeding took less than five minutes.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters