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

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

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

Fox continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Controller is responsible for:

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

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

Click here to read the full article at the California Globe

Appeals Court Allows Noncitizens to Again Vote in San Francisco School Board Elections

A California appeals court decision will effectively allow non-U.S. citizens to vote in San Francisco school board elections in November, despite a court ruling earlier this year that struck down the local law as unconstitutional.

California Superior Court Judge Richard Ulmer struck down the city’s ordinance allowing noncitizens to vote on July 29. However, the First District Court of Appeal in August granted a request by the city for a stay of the decision.

The appellate court then denied on Sept. 9 a request to expedite Ulmer’s ruling against San Francisco’s noncitizen voting law in time for the General Election.

“The constitutional challenges … are significant ones that are entitled to deliberate consideration,” according to the appeals court decision. However, the court “decline[s] to order an injunction. No extensions of time will be granted absent a showing of exceptional good cause.”

This means noncitizens can cast ballots in the Nov. 8 election, according to James V. Lacy, an attorney who filed a lawsuit against the San Francisco ordinance on behalf of conservative groups in March 2022.

Lacy told The Epoch Times that the procedural delay will harm election integrity and allow the counting of votes that a judge has already ruled are illegal.

“It puts a cloud on the election,” he said on Sept. 13. “At a time of very high skepticism in the general public about the integrity of our elections, what the court has basically done is undermining the credibility and the vote of the San Francisco election.”

San Francisco voters approved the ordinance that appeared as Proposition N on the 2016 ballot, and the law was set to expire on Dec. 31, 2022, until the city extended it indefinitely last year. Since it went into effect, noncitizens have been allowed to vote in at least four local elections, according to court documents.

According to deputy city attorneys, noncitizens may only vote in school board elections and are not given an opportunity to vote for any other office.

The underlying idea was to give noncitizen parents a say in who is elected to school boards but “the problem is that it is illegal,” Lacy told California Insider host Siyamak Khorrami in an Aug. 24 episode. “It’s alarming that this ballot initiative even got on the ballot.”

Lacy contends that voting is a fundamental right of citizens only, and a cornerstone of democracy that should not be “tinkered with.”

The California Constitution clearly states that only U.S. citizens are allowed to vote in state and local elections, Lacy told California Insider at the time.

According to the constitution, “A United States citizen 18 years of age and resident in this State may vote.” However, attorneys for the city argued the “may vote” language doesn’t prohibit a local government to allow others to vote.

In his July 29 ruling, Judge Ulmer said that based on the same flawed logic, the city could argue that “children under 18 and residents of other states ‘may also’ vote in California elections, which our Constitution does not allow.”

He said the constitution uses the words “may vote” for good reason.

“Had it instead used the mandatory word ‘shall’ … resident citizens of age would be legally required to vote. Election laws in many nations make voting mandatory, but not the United States,” Ulmer said.

Catherine Engelbrecht of True the Vote, a national election integrity watchdog group, denounced the appellate court’s decision to deny the request for expedition.

“Name any other country in the world that would allow noncitizens to vote in their country’s elections. There isn’t one,” Engelbrecht told The Epoch Times on Sept. 13.

Click here to read the full story at the Epoch Times

Pepperdine Caruso Law Mourns the Passing of Former Dean Ken Starr

Pepperdine University Caruso School of Law mourns the passing of Kenneth W. Starr, who served as the Duane and Kelly Roberts Dean and professor of law from 2004 to 2010. He was 76.

“I had the privilege of serving on the faculty and in the administration of the law school during Ken’s tenure as dean,” said Pepperdine University president Jim Gash. “In that period, I witnessed firsthand Ken’s deep love for our students and his commitment to advancing Caruso Law as one of the preeminent Christian legal education programs in the US and around the globe. I am profoundly grateful for Ken’s friendship, mentorship, counseling, guidance and encouragement through the years.”

In the five years under Starr’s leadership, Caruso Law made significant academic and reputational strides as the school began its ascent into the top tier of law schools. While serving as dean at Caruso Law, Starr devoted himself to the academic enterprise and brought his considerable legal knowledge to the classroom. He regularly taught courses in his areas of expertise, including current constitutional issues, religion and the constitution, advanced constitutional law, and appellate advocacy. During his deanship, Starr modeled the servant leadership he hoped to inspire in future lawyers by taking on pro bono cases and volunteering at local humanitarian organizations. As an academic mentor and leader, Starr is warmly remembered by his former students and colleagues for taking a personal interest in their endeavors and encouraging them to pursue academic and scholarly excellence along with generosity of spirit.

Pepperdine University senior vice chancellor and Caruso School of Law Dean Emeritus Ronald Phillips commented, “There are so many of us whose lives have been better because of Ken. He has done so much to make this world a better place.”

In 2007 Starr oversaw the establishment of the annual William French Smith Memorial Lectures on Law and the Judiciary, a lecture series designed to bring judges, attorneys, and law professors to Caruso Law to speak on judicial issues. A gala held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum to introduce the series was attended by former Attorney General Edwin Meese, former governor of California Pete Wilson, and former First Lady Nancy Reagan. Starr continued to raise the visibility of the law school by inviting Supreme Court justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito, and Chief Justice John A. Roberts to speak at events such as the William French Smith lecture series and the annual School of Law dinner.

“I am honored to be following in Ken Starr’s giant footsteps,” said Paul L. Caron, the current dean of Caruso Law since 2017. “He accomplished so much to advance Pepperdine’s unique position in legal education, combining academic and research excellence with a deep-rooted commitment to our Christian mission.” 

Prior to his deanship at Caruso Law, Starr served as solicitor general of the United States and argued 36 cases before the Supreme Court. He also served as United States circuit judge for the District of Columbia; counselor to United States Attorney General William French Smith; and law clerk to Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and Fifth Circuit Judge David W. Dyer. Starr served as independent counsel for five investigations. Following these appointments, Starr worked as a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP and as a visiting professor at New York University, Chapman University School of Law, George Mason School of Law, and Caruso Law. In recent years, he authored a book on religious liberty and practiced appellate law at the Lanier Law Firm based in Houston.

Starr held a bachelor’s degree from George Washington University, a master’s degree from Brown University, and a juris doctor degree from the Duke University School of Law. He was admitted to practice in California, the District of Columbia, Virginia, and the United States Supreme Court.

Click here to read the full article at Pepperdine Law

California to give $2,500 Training Grant to Workers Who lost jobs during pandemic

Living through a pandemic sucks, but for Diana McLaughlin, early 2020 was especially bad: A divorce in February 2020, societal shut-down in March, and as part of the COVID-19 economic fallout, she lost her job in April of that year, returning to full-time work only 18 months later.

California lawmakers had economically distressed folks like McLaughlin in mind when last year they approved half a billion dollars on education grants worth $2,500 to help workers displaced by the pandemic acquire new job-related skills. 

McLaughlin is among the first 3,000 or so recipients of this grant, adult learners who were issued checks in a pilot program this spring and summer. Now the state is opening the grant to a wide range of adults with low incomes who lost their jobs or saw their hours severely cut during the pandemic. Half of the grant funds are reserved for displaced workers with children under 18. 

Officials expect to reach 190,000 people with this money, called the Golden State Education and Training Grant Program

Among the few stipulations to receive the grant, applicants must fill out a short application that takes about 10 minutes to complete and attest that they lost a job or hours after March 4 2020, when Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency. Applicants also must affirm that they weren’t enrolled in an educational or job-training program when they lost their jobs. There’s an income threshold as well. 

Part of what makes the application quick to complete is how little it asks. Unlike other grant applications for college, this one is self-reported and self-certified, wrote Judith Gutierrez, spokesperson for the state financial aid agency running the grant, in an email. “We are not requesting any documentation,” she added.

McLaughlin wasted no time once she received her grant in June, 2022. After taking courses part-time at American River College, a community college in Sacramento, since October of 2020, she decided to go full-time to pursue her first ever-degree this fall and chose accounting as her major. 

The $2,500 is paying for her textbooks, software required for schoolwork and other supplies — anything remaining she’s putting in a personal education account. Though she receives tuition waivers as part of a state financial aid program and additional dollars through the Cal Grant, the Golden State grant gives her extra confidence that she can afford an education while earning around $38,000 a year.

“I spend my lunch break doing schoolwork,” she said. After returning from the office, she takes her associate degree courses online. McLaughlin’s younger son is a virtual charter school student, so the two complete their homework side by side. 

“I feel that it’s showing him how important an education is and to never give up because here I am, 47, and in college,” she said.

Expanding financial aid in California

At first blush the Golden State Education and Training grant, which will last through 2024 and is funded mostly through one-time federal stimulus funds, is yet another example of the state’s growing effort to lower the cost of college for adults and bring more Californians into college classrooms. 

In the past two years, public funding grew by nearly 50% for the California Student Aid Commission, which oversees most of the higher-education grant aid to students, to nearly $3.6 billion. That growth includes more tuition and cash support for community college students, middle-class students at the University of California and California State University, students formerly in foster care, students raising children and the Golden State training grant, among others.

But the Golden State grant’s eligibility rules start where other state and federal grants drop off, extending cash assistance to would-be students who otherwise wouldn’t be eligible for traditional college financial aid.

The Golden State grant can cover education programs that are shorter than about four months — something the federal Pell and state Cal Grant do not. Students receiving the Golden State grant may also use the money for extension and so-called noncredit programs, such as English-as-a-second-language courses, bicycle repair and various landscaping certificates. There’s no minimum program length for this grant — and because state dollars cover some of the grant costs — undocumented students are also eligible for the $2,500. Anyone getting the grant needs to already know which training program they plan to pursue.

Getting the word out

So that displaced workers with no ties to a college also apply, the Student Aid Commission is working with regional workforce boards, The California Workforce Development Board and other agencies to get the word out about the grant, said Jake Brymner, director of governmental relations for the Student Aid Commission. 

Grant recipients can also use the funds if they enroll in certain workforce training and apprenticeship programs unaffiliated with colleges or universities. The Student Aid Commission is reviewing which workforce training programs are eligible and will soon add those to the approved list on the grant application. Students will only be able to use their grants at California public colleges, universities and these approved workforce training programs.

During the pilot when only public colleges and universities were eligible, 84% of the grant applicants sought educations at community colleges, data from the Student Aid Commission shows. 

“This specific grant has great potential,” said Daisy Gonzales, interim chancellor of the California Community Colleges. “What it does is it provides an entry point to our colleges for students that may not know about us.” Students with no exposure to community colleges can gain access to food pantries and coordinators who are familiar with other state and local social services for which students could qualify. 

She’s also hopeful the grant may help to recover some of the colossal enrollment loss the system suffered in the past two years.  

Grant can combine with other student aid

Even if grant recipients qualify for free tuition, especially at community colleges where nearly half of learners attend for free, they can use the money to cover gas, housing, food and other expenses. It’s an added perk for learners who had no spare dollars to afford an internet connection or other expenses associated with attaining a degree.

Muideen Olawoyin was one class away from earning an associate degree in human services, a stepping stone toward social work. But a series of bad breaks and a long-term injury left him cash-dry. 

“I (couldn’t) even afford internet then, it was so hard,” he said. When he picked up the Golden State check from his school, Cosumnes River College, he was able to get back online, enroll in that final course and earn his degree this summer. 

The average income of the roughly 3,000 grant recipients was about $22,000 when they first applied, according to California Student Aid Commission data provided to CalMatters.

Some degrees don’t boost wages

Not all training and education programs are made equal, however. Some research shows that shorter-term college certificates — like the kind in which students with this grant can enroll — have a mixed record of boosting the earning power of graduates.

Overall, these certificates lead to higher wages, but noncredit programs are less remunerative than traditional for-credit certificates. Still, associate degrees and bachelor’s degrees lead to even higher wage gains for graduates, according to a 2020 Urban Institute study. Meanwhile, a fifth of certificate programs at public colleges and universities lead to lower wages than what workers with high school diplomas earn, a Hechinger Report analysis of national data showed

California’s foray into funding short-term credentials could inform the national conversation on whether to permit federal grant aid to pay for educations that are shorter than four months. For a few years now advocates have been trying to introduce “short-term” Pell grants, but the idea hasn’t won over enough lawmakers yet

None of the four Golden State training grant recipients CalMatters spoke with were pursuing short-term credentials — all wanted an associate degree. McLaughlin, who now works as an accountant for a fencing company, is dreaming bigger.

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters

Gov. Newsom Pays Unions Back for Recall Rescue

California: ‘Bloated, sleepy and sloppy state bureaucracy that has festered in mediocrity’

California Governor Gavin Newsom was spared the indignity of being recalled by voters in fall of 2021 by California’s powerful and gilded labor unions, which spent more than $25 million in the recall, according to CalMatters. “That’s more money than Hollywood, California’s tech industry, local Indian tribes, and state real estate players spent in the recall race combined,” the Federalist reported.

The Governor apparently did not forget his end of the ostensible deal, rewarding labor with promises of hundreds of thousands of new members (Fast food workers), as well as signing legislation providing tax credits for the union dues of members.

“The new budget passed by lawmakers in mid-June and signed by Governor Newsom two weeks later will take California’s existing tax deduction for union dues payments and turn it into a tax credit capped at 33% of dues paid,” Patrick Gleason, Vice President of State Affairs at Americans for Tax Reform, said in Forbes. “Changing the deduction to a credit makes the union tax break more generous and benefits those who don’t itemize or have a tax liability.”

Moves like this should show American voters exactly who Gavin Newsom would show his loyalty should he run for President.

Ballotpedia explains the tax credit:

“Once implemented, the tax credit would be the first of its kind in the U.S. Union dues are currently tax-deductible in California and some other states. (A tax deduction lowers a person’s taxable income before calculating taxes, while a tax credit reduces the amount of tax a person is responsible for paying.)

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed SB 154, the Budget Act of 2022, on June 27. On June 30, Newsom signed SB 189, one of several bills “providing for appropriations related to” the budget act. SB 189 says, “Contingent upon future legislation, including future budget appropriations, and subject to a determination in the spring of 2024 that General Fund money over the multiyear forecasts is available to support ongoing augmentations and actions, the following actions will be prioritized: (1) Implement a tax credit under the Personal Income Tax Law to offset a portion of costs associated with union membership.”

The Federalist reported:

Max Nelson, the director of labor policy at the free-market conservative think tank Freedom Foundation, described the legislation as a “bold” mechanism to expand union membership and empower state-sponsored speech. “Taxpayers are being compelled by the force of state law to pay people to pay unions,” Nelson said.

“Big labor groups may also claim the benefits for themselves, where raising dues to cover the difference offered by the tax credit would enrich union leadership who dictate organizations’ political contributions,”

“We’re kind of into some new frontiers here, which will be interesting for both the courts to grapple with and the states,” Nelson told The Federalist, where Democrats have now embraced a measure to directly fund their own allies who, in turn, will “plow money into progressive electoral politics.”

Patrick Gleason continued:

“The first half of 2022 was a mixed bag for California taxpayers who don’t want the state to inflict more costs upon households and the economy. … Many Californians, however, are unlikely to appreciate the fact that Governor Newsom and state legislators created a new tax credit that is unavailable to 84% of Golden State workers. For all the talk about equity & equality coming from the state’s most powerful politicians, California’s new budget takes the state tax code’s already unequal treatment of workers and worsens it.”

But perhaps Lance Christensen, candidate for State Superintendent of Instruction best reminded us in September 2021 right before the Newsom recall election, what really is at stake in the Golden State besides labor union payoffs:

“California still faces substantial, long-term financing troubles. While Gov. Newsom boasts of the biggest state budget in history, the titanic funds undergirding the budget are one-time revenues that will tank once the Federal Reserve stops printing money and Congress avoids propping up spendthrift programs.”

“If a new governor is elected this month, that person will have one year to whip into shape a bloated, sleepy and sloppy state bureaucracy that has festered in mediocrity for years. And if the Legislature or entrenched bureaucracy is going to resist, the governor should plan for a one-hour presser every day to name names and let the people know why things aren’t changing.”

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Anonymous Letter to Assembly Lawmakers Alleges Abuse, Harassment of Sergeants-at-Arms by Chief

Letter says violations have been reported to Assembly leaders but nothing was done

The California Globe is in receipt of a letter stating it is from an Assembly Sergeant-at-Arms, recently sent to all members of the California State Assembly, as well as Assembly staffers, revealing alleged abuse and horrible work conditions in the legislature by the Assembly Chief Sergeant-at-Arms.

The complaint alleges that Assembly Chief Sergeant-at-Arms Alisa Buckley and Deputy Chief Sergeant Randy Arruda are abusive to the point of pushing Sergeants to retire early, leave for another job, or suffer demotion and schedule changes with little or no notice. 

The writer says the policy violations were reported to the Workers Conduct Unit (WCU) and Assembly Human Resources, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Chair of Rules Committee Ken Cooley, and Chief Administrative Officer Debra Gravert, but nothing changed.

“At the State Capitol, those who create the laws that the governed are required to follow, do not follow such practices themselves,” the letter writer says.

In December 2019, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announced Alisa Buckley, a member of the Sacramento Police Department for 22 years, as the Assembly’s new Acting Chief Sergeant-at-Arms. The election for the new Chief Sergeant was held the first week of session in January 2020, and she was approved for the job.

With the complaint now being public, it appears the Assembly Speaker needs to initiate a thorough investigation into the allegations, which includes interviewing all staff Sergeants-at-Arms.

The California Capitol has been plagued with hostile working conditions in recent years. In 2018 the Joint Committee on Rules Subcommittee on Sexual Harassment Prevention and Response announced policy changes in response to widespread accusations of sexual harassment/assault and gross sexual misconduct by elected legislators and senior staff, I reported. Yet female employees still report harassment, as the Los Angeles Times recently reported.

The Globe contacted Assembly Speaker Rendon’s press secretary Saturday for a statement but we have not heard back. We will update the article when we do.

Here is the letter:

August 26, 2022

All Assemblymembers

1315 10th St.

Sacramento, CA 95834

RE: Assembly Sergeant-at-Arms Hostile Work Environment

Dear Assemblymembers,

Over the course of the last year, the Assembly’s Sergeant-at-Arms Department has become a hostile and demoralizing place of employment.  In 2021, the department had around 50 total employees.  Since then, the department has diminished to less than half that number due to the leadership of Chief Sergeant Alisa Buckley and Deputy Chief Sergeant Randy Arruda.  Diminishing staff is due to those who have chosen to retire early, leave for another job opportunity, or were demoted.   Those who left includes five of the eight in management.  Several Assembly policies have been violated and were reported to the Workers Conduct Unit (WCU) and Assembly Human Resources. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Chair of Rules Committee Ken Cooley, and Chief Administrative Officer Debra Gravert had been informed of such matters and made the decision to protect the institution instead of protecting staff vital to the functioning of the Capitol.

Assembly policy states that training in Workplace Violence Prevention, Ethics, and Sexual Harassment be conducted each legislative term and that staff compliance is mandatory.  The Ethics training course describes retaliation and purposeful misconduct by superiors.  This has been occurring in the Sergeant’s Department for two years.

-Demoting the employees

-Encouraging staff to ostracize individual employees without cause or evidence

-Giving poor reviews or nit-picking

-Sudden changes in work schedules and/or work locations

-Poor references without cause or evidence

-Poor performance feedback without cause or evidence

Assembly staff communicated such occurrences to individual members in the hopes that help would come. Staff has been repeatedly reminded that they are at-will employees and could be let go at any time for any reason.  The constant reminding has considered is a warning to any employees that discuss department matters to members will experience consequences.  This is a violation of the ethic protocols in the Capitol.  What is occurring in the department has reached the level of being discussed in a Democratic Caucus meeting.  

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

LAUSD Student Test Scores Show Sharp Drops in English, Math Proficiency

Pointing to the COVID-19 pandemic as the driving factor, the Los Angeles Unified School District released test scores Friday showing sharp drop-offs in proficiency among students in nearly all grade levels in English and math.

According to the preliminary Smarter Balanced Assessments, the percent of LAUSD students meeting or exceeding state standards in English dropped by about two percentage points compared to the pre-pandemic 2018-19 year — falling from 43.9% to 41.7%. In math, the drop was steeper, falling by five percentage points from 33.5% to 28.5%.

“As anticipated, the preliminary state assessment results illustrate that there is no substitute for in-person instruction,” Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho said in a statement. “Los Angeles Unified is proactively addressing the decline in achievement performance, particularly in English language arts and mathematics, at all grade levels.

“We are working collaboratively to accelerate and realize the learning potential of every student, bolstering important support systems including instructional, mental health and community supports to meet the needs of our students and realize our goals outlined in our 2022-2026 Strategic Plan.”

According to the figures, the percent of students meeting or exceeding the English standard fell in all grade levels except eighth grade, which saw slight increase. The biggest drop was in the 11th grade, which fell by 7 percentage points. Third-graders fell off by 4.5 percentage points and fourth- grades fell by about four points.

In math, every grade level saw a decrease, led by the 11th grade with a 9.7 point drop-off from 28.6% to 18.9%.

Eighth- and sixth-graders saw a nearly six-point drop.

“Los Angeles Unified has acted with urgency to ensure our students have the necessary supports to recover from the pandemic this year, and these results further underscore the need,” LAUSD Board of Education President Kelly Gonez said in a statement. “We have invested in strategies — from ensuring there’s a teacher in every classroom to summer school, tutoring and mental health supports — that will help us accelerate learning for all students, particularly our highest needs students who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.”

District officials said a variety of steps are included in the Strategic Plan to address learning loss from the pandemic, including the hiring of more teachers, providing additional training opportunities for teachers at the highest-need schools and using the test scores to guide “instructional planning and personalized learning so all students reach proficiency.”

Click here to read the full article at Fox11

New Court Order Means Noncitizen Parents Can Vote in Nov. 8 Election for San Francisco School Board

Noncitizen parents will be allowed to vote in the Nov. 8 election for school board in San Francisco after a state appeals court rejected opponents’ request to decide a case about the legality of the city’s voting ordinance before then.

Conservative activists behind a lawsuit challenging the ordinance had asked the court to expedite its review of the case and, in the meantime, grant an immediate injunction to block the city from providing ballots to noncitizens. But the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco rejected both requests in an order Thursday.

The three-member appeals panel noted, in its brief order, that opponents of the ordinance allowed “four elections to take place with noncitizen voting before filing the instant lawsuit.”

But the fate of San Francisco’s ordinance still hangs by a thread. The ordinance allows noncitizens — including undocumented immigrants and legal residents — to vote for school board candidates if they are a parent or guardian of a school-age child and are not in prison or on parole for a felony conviction.

In August, a Superior Court judge struck down the ordinance and said only U.S. citizens are permitted to vote. Conservative groups have cited a provision in the California Constitution that declares, “A United States citizen 18 years of age and resident in this State may vote.”

San Francisco challenged that ruling to the First District Court of Appeal, which restored noncitizen voting, at least for now. The appeals court granted the city’s request for a stay to set aside the judge’s ruling and leave the ordinance in effect while the case is on appeal. The justices said opponents of the law had not shown they would suffer “irreparable damage in their business or profession” if the law remained in effect during the appeal.

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

The lead plaintiff in the case, James V. Lacy, said in a statement Friday that the Court of Appeal’s decision to not expedite its review of the case would likely result in noncitizens casting ballots that “will unconstitutionally dilute the voting power of all citizen voters, including those of ethnic minority groups.”

Noncitizen voter turnout has been low in past elections, possibly due to fears about sharing their identities with the government. Election officials said noncitizen voters accounted for 238 of the 180,000 ballots cast in the February election that recalled three school board members from office.

Attorneys for San Francisco contend the provision in the California Constitution stating that citizens “may vote” does not prevent a local government from allowing noncitizens to vote.

Click here to read the full article at the SF Chronicle

Karen Bass Got a USC Degree for Free. It’s Now Pulling Her Into a Federal Corruption Case 

During the last decade, two influential Los Angeles politicians were awarded full-tuition scholarships valued at nearly $100,000 each from USC’s social work program. 

One of those scholarships led to the indictment of former L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the former dean of USC’s social work program, Marilyn Flynn, on bribery and fraud charges.

The other scholarship recipient, Rep. Karen Bass, is the leading contender to be L.A.’s next mayor.

Federal prosecutors have made no indication that Bass is under a criminal investigation.

But prosecutors have now declared that Bass’ scholarship and her dealings with USC are “critical” to their bribery case and to their broader portrayal of corruption in the university’s social work program.

When jurors ultimately decide whether to convict Ridley-Thomas and Flynn, prosecutors have indicated they want Bass’ relationship with USC, the largest private employer in her congressional district, to inform their verdict.

By awarding free tuition to Bass in 2011, Flynn hoped to obtain the congresswoman’s assistance in passing coveted legislation, prosecutors wrote in a July court filing. Bass later sponsored a bill in Congress that would have expanded USC’s and other private universities’ access to federal funding for social work — “just as defendant Flynn wanted,” the filing states.

Flynn is charged for what prosecutors allege was a quid pro quo with Ridley-Thomas involving a scholarship awarded to his son in exchange for lucrative county contracts. To bolster their case, prosecutors have pointed to an email from Flynn in which she noted doing “the same” sort of scholarship-for-funding with Bass.

Bass’ name is redacted in much of the court filings, which prosecutors said accorded with Department of Justice policy.The Times confirmed her identity through case records, people familiar with the matter and some copies of emails that were briefly filed in court this summer and later redacted.

Federal prosecutors declined this week to elaborate on their statements about the scholarship. “At present and based on the evidence obtained to date, Rep. Bass is not a target or a subject of our office’s investigation,” said Thom Mrozek, director of media relations for the U.S. attorney’s office in L.A.

But with Flynn and Ridley-Thomas on trial in November, the circumstances of Bass’ free master’s degree could become an increasingly contested part of the case. In June, Flynn’s lawyers subpoenaed USC for correspondence pertaining to Bass’ scholarship and any honors or benefits given to the congresswoman, according to a copy of the subpoena filed last month. 

A court battle over the involvement of Bass’ scholarship could in turn offer grist for political attacks as she heads into the final weeks of her mayoral campaign against developer Rick Caruso.

Through a spokesperson, Bass denied ever speaking with Flynn about federal funding for social work programs at private universities while the pair discussed her attendance at USC. Asked whether it was apparent that Flynn had a legislative agenda in offering the scholarship, Bass said, “No.”

“Everybody knows that the welfare of children and families has been a passion and policy focus of mine for decades,” Bass said. “The only reason I studied nights and weekends for a master’s degree was to become a better advocate for children and families — period.”

‘Clearly’ a gift

The Times revealed the Bass scholarship last year, noting that full-tuition awards like the one she received were not publicized, had no formal application process and were more generous than grants typically given to other students.

In an interview last fall for that article, Bass said that she didn’t apply for the social work program; Flynn apparently made the decision to admit her after learning of her interest in getting a graduate degree.

Before accepting the scholarship, Bass said, she wrote to the House Committee on Ethics in 2011, requesting an exemption on the rule prohibiting gifts to members of Congress. She told ethics officials the graduate degree would deepen her knowledge of child welfare policy and help her better represent constituents, according to congressional records.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Sacramento Drug-Addicted Transients Taking Over Neighborhoods While City Fiddles

Kate Tibbitts’ horrific murder remains on locals’ psyches, but seems to be a far-away, inconvenient memory for local politicians

The City of Sacramento has a big problem, and it isn’t the “existential threat of climate change.”

Narcotics, burglary, aggravated assault, battery, vandalism, and weapon-related crimes are now commonplace in residential neighborhoods where new moms push strollers on daily walks, kids bicycle to baseball practice, runners prepare for the next marathon, elderly groups do tai chi together, neighbors walk their dogs, and families picnic.

“Open drug use has worsened in the Broadway area of Land Park recently, according to neighbors who say they are upset about a lack of action to combat lawlessness,” KCRA 3 reported this weekend. Only this isn’t a recent problem – it’s been building exponentially, and since Mayor Darrell Steinberg was elected in 2016.

Is this a case of bad timing for Steinberg or a case of bad policy and politics?

As the Globe reported last week, “The latest Starbucks casualty is in Sacramento, along the Broadway corridor, wrought with blocks of homeless transients, escalating crime, and legitimate safety concerns for the residents and business owners who live and work there.”

The Sacramento Land Park neighborhood is also where long time resident Kate Tibbitts was brutally murdered in her home by a parolee. Last fall “homeless” transient Troy Davis, out on the streets despite his recent parole violation, raped and murdered downtown Sacramento resident Kate Tibbitts, in the Land Park neighborhood, killing her dogs and setting her house on fire,” the Globe reported.

Tibbitts horrific murder remains a fresh imprint on locals’s psyche, but seems to be a far-away, inconvenient memory for local politicians.

This past weekend, this transient man was making such a scene tossing trash at the now-closed Starbucks on Broadway, the police were called. He has an ankle bracelet on.

This is video of his mania taken by a local resident: 91C91B8B-21CD-46E4-BDC2-BA2717D39AFCAnd this video.

KCRA received a statement from Councilwoman Katie Valenzuela:

“The police have gotten more resources than they ever had before – $47m additional in just the last two budgets. Despite that increase in funding our crime has gone up, because the issues here are not about enforcement. We will not see a decrease in crime until we start prioritizing the reasons people commit crimes: drug and mental health treatment, affordable housing, economic opportunity.”

Many in the city dispute Valenzuela’s claim of $47M additional funding for SacPD. The budget includes money for pensions, police equipment, and other non-officer spending. SacPd is still seriously understaffed. Sacramento had more police officers on the street in 2008 than we do today in 2022, and the city population has grown significantly since then. Sac Fire’s budget has also increased, but nobody complains about that.

Councilwoman Valenzuela continues to blame police, but now at least admits that drug addiction and mental health is a large part of the crimes by homeless transients. But mouthing the words isn’t enough for the Councilwoman facing a recall election.

In April, the Globe reported “Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, together with Democratic state lawmakers and ‘criminal justice reform’ advocates, held a press conference and demanded $3 billion ‘for immediate and substantial investments in crime prevention and healing services for crime victims.’ Their demand follows the weekend [gang] shooting in Sacramento which left 6 dead and 12 injured.”

Steinberg has demanded a lot of state and federal funding since he took over the Mayor’s office in 2016. It seems to be all he knows how to do – demand and spend, and we don’t really know where the money is spent with so many questionable NGOs and non-profits attached to city government.

Steinberg created the non-profit Steinberg Institute in 2015 while still a State Senator, just prior to leaving the California Senate, to help the mentally-ill: “Since its inception in January 2015, the institute has helped enact sweeping improvements in California mental health policy, including securing $2 billion to provide housing and care for homeless people living with brain illness,” the website says.

Has the Steinberg Institute spent $2 billion helping the mentally-ill, creating housing and funding crime prevention? The odds are no, they have not. We are betting that $2 billion isn’t going to the mentally ill, drug addicted homeless transients living on Sacramento streets.

With Steinberg at the April press event following the downtown gang shooting were gun control and defund-the-police advocates:

Advocates used the opportunity to call for more state funding for crime prevention, cash assistance to victims and survivors of violent crime, and “interventions around gun violence.” However, the advocates for interventions around gun violence offered no specific solutions – just funding. Maybe these groups are where Steinberg’s demand for funding end up.

After another deadly shooting downtown in July, Mayor Steinberg announced the “investments” he was making to make Downtown Sacramento more safe:

  • increased our minimum patrol staffing on Saturdays
  • bike officers now work until 3 a.m. on weekends
  • Officers in the entertainment unit are also working until 3 a.m., focusing on hotspots in downtown and midtown
  • Additional officers have now been directed to patrol parking lots near nightclubs to make sure they aren’t used by people getting in fights or engaging in illegal activity
  • an additional funding allocation from City Council pays for two foot patrol officers every day

This is nice and already should already be standard operating procedure.

Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher suggested a different tact last Spring:

  • End the Early Release of Violent Felons
  • Restore Stiff Penalties for Gun & Gang Crimes
  • Disarm & Penalize Felons with Guns

Those policies would make a difference.

As for the downtown neighbors and the Land Park neighborhood, Land Park Community Association vice president Kristina Rogers told KCRA, “We’ve got people dealing drugs, and shooting up, and having crazy episodes in front of children … I keep hearing about revitalization in this area, and this is what we’re getting instead.”

Click here to read the full article at the California Globe