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

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

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

Former Union Leader Charged with Embezzling Tens of Thousands of Dollars in Union Dues

Felix Luciano, 60, of San Diego, was arraigned Friday in San Diego federal court

A former Department of Homeland Security officer and head of a labor union accused of embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from the union he represented has been indicted in federal court in San Diego, according to prosecutors.

Felix Luciano, 60, of San Diego, was arraigned Friday in U.S. District Court in San Diego on charges, including wire fraud and making false statements, stemming from allegations he used money from the American Federation of Government Employees Local 2805 for his own benefit.

He was indicted by a federal grand jury and pleaded not guilty.

No defense attorney for Luciano could be reached immediately Friday evening.

Prosecutors said Luciano, a former enforcement removal officer for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was president of the labor union that represents DHS-ICE employees in San Diego and Imperial counties from 2011 through December 2018. Among his duties was to maintain the “fiscal integrity of the organization,” prosecutors said.

He retired in December 2018, when the Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards was conducting an audit of Local 2805.

According to the indictment, Luciano used union dues to pay for personal expenses for himself and his wife between December 2013 and January 2019. The expenses included luxury travel, personal credit card payments, website design for his wife’s business, a custom gun safe, dining and groceries, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Prosecutors allege that Luciano used the union’s debit and credit card to pay his personal expenses and wrote checks to himself from the union’s checking account using false descriptions like “per diem” in the memo lines.

He then concealed his actions by reporting false information on the union’s annual financial reports, prosecutors said. On a 2017 report, Luciano allegedly reported that Local 2805 had disbursed $3,068 to him (directly or indirectly) when the correct figure was more than $20,000, prosecutors said.

“When employees pay their hard-earned money into labor unions, they reasonably expect the officers of those organizations to be honest stewards of their dues,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “Our office will work diligently to pursue justice against offenders who have allegedly stolen from their own unions at the expense of members.”

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

Sheriff properly obtained search warrants for supervisor’s home, judge says

Seized materials can’t be searched until a third-party overseer is appointed

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge did not find “any irregularity” with the way the Sheriff’s Department obtained search warrants for the homes and offices of Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and other county officials, according to a hearing Thursday, Sept. 22.

Still, Judge William Ryan ruled he would not allow either the sheriff’s detectives, or the Attorney General’s Office, which took over the case this week, to search the seized computers and cellphones until he could appoint a third party, called a special master, to weed out any information protected by attorney-client privilege.

“I am going to appoint a special master because of the claims of privilege,” he said. “I think that needs to be overseen.”

Ryan originally had questioned why the sheriff’s detectives went to a different judge, instead of Judge Eleanor Hunter, who was already presiding over legal challenges to nearly identical search warrants executed by the Sheriff’s Department last year.

Previous court order

In court filings ahead of the hearing, attorneys for Kuehl and L.A. County Metro’s Office of the Inspector General accused the sheriff’s investigators of attempting to circumvent an existing order from Hunter that would have required a special master to participate in the raids and expressed concerns about the involvement of Judge Craig Richman, a longtime associate of Detective Mark Lillienfeld, a member of the sheriff’s Public Corruption Unit.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Max Fernandez originally tried to present the new warrants to Hunter, but she was not available, according to Ryan. The courts sent Fernandez to Richman instead and Richman chose not to appoint a special master, though Fernandez requested one.

“As far as I’m concerned, that puts to bed the issue of whether there was any irregularity in the obtaining of the search warrant,” Ryan said.

The targets of the searches have argued the warrants are overly broad and intrusive, but Ryan declined to rule on the merits of the probe, instead saying such a decision would likely be decided in the future by potentially another judge.

The Thursday hearing involved more than half a dozen attorneys, including separate representation for Kuehl, county oversight Commissioner Patricia Giggans, L.A. County Metro, Metro’s Office of the Inspector General, the sheriff and the attorney general.

Was Kuehl tipped off?

According to Ryan, investigators already have conducted about 50 searches — primarily from devices taken from Kuehl — and even worked overtime trying to determine if Kuehl was tipped off about the search warrants in advance. Kuehl, in an interview, said she received a text message the night before from the County Counsel’s Office about rumors that warrants would be executed the next morning. The Sheriff’s Department also has alleged that Giggans and her attorney greeted deputies at the door.

Kuehl’s attorney, Cheryl O’Connor, pointed to the rush to search Kuehl’s phones for the “tip off” as evidence the department was searching beyond the scope of the warrants. Ryan, in response, likened it to stumbling “across a dead body” while conducting a different investigation.

“It is a very serious allegation that the supervisor had been tipped off that this search was coming ahead of time,” Ryan said. “It’s potentially a felony.”

Lucrative contract

The Sheriff’s Department has indicated its probe is focused on contracts awarded by L.A. County Metro to Peace Over Violence, a nonprofit run by Giggans. Kuehl, a lifelong friend of Giggans, serves on Metro’s board of directors and also is listed as a member of Peace Over Violence’s advisory board. The contracts, which totaled $890,000 over a six-year period, never came before the board for a vote and were approved by CEO Phil Washington.

A whistleblower, whose complaints are the backbone of the sheriff’s case, alleges Kuehl pushed for the contracts behind the scenes. Kuehl has denied the allegations and accused Sheriff Alex Villanueva of targeting her and Giggans for their vocal criticism of him. Both clash frequently with him and have called for his resignation.

The Attorney General’s Office announced Tuesday, Sept. 20, it would take control of the investigation following a letter from Villanueva urging Attorney General Rob Bonta to investigate whether Kuehl had been tipped off. Bonta, in response, said he would take the entire case over because the two investigations are “intimately related.”

“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. “I recognize the deep uncertainty this has engendered and, given the unique circumstances, my team has committed to taking over this investigative process. Make no mistake: We are committed to a thorough, fair, and independent investigation that will help restore confidence for the people of our state. If there is wrongdoing by any party, we will bring it to light.”

Return of property

Much of the discussions at Thursday’s hearing revolved around how soon seized property could be returned.

The representatives for Kuehl and Giggans urged a speedy return of the computers and cellphones as their clients have suffered from the loss of the equipment. O’Connor, the attorney for Kuehl, said the supervisor was working from home and now only has access to a single cellphone to conduct county business.

“There is no reason taxpayers should have to purchase new devices in order for her to do her duties,” O’Connor said.

Attorney Austin Dove, who represents Giggans, said Peace Over Violence has been “crippled by this search warrant” after deputies seized both its server and the backup. The nonprofit is unable to serve its more than 600 clients as a result.

“Two weeks is death for my client,” Dove told the judge. “I don’t believe they can survive that long.”

Ryan ordered the Attorney General’s Office to determine if it could quickly digitally duplicate the devices and then return the physical hardware without hindering its investigation.

Susan Schwartz, a deputy attorney general, suggested Ryan order the Sheriff’s Department to turn over its investigatory records and the seized property within the next two weeks, but Ryan declined to do so, saying he wouldn’t force the matter unless the agency refused to cooperate. Fernandez, sitting in the audience, told the court his unit would meet the two-week deadline voluntarily.

Double representation

Though a sheriff’s spokesperson previously released a statement saying the County Counsel’s Office had fired the department’s attorney, two sets of attorneys turned up on its behalf, creating confusion in the court.

Click here to read the full article at the LA Daily 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

Will You Get a Payment? California Readying ‘Tax Refunds’ For 23 Million Residents

Qualifying couples who pay their taxes jointly and have dependents will get $1,050.

In three weeks, California will begin sending Middle Class Tax Refund payments to 23 million qualifying residents.

The state set aside $9.5 billion from its $308 billion annual budget for the inflation-relief payments. Initially proposed as a gas rebate, the state Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom settled on a plan to return some of the state’s $98 billion budget surplus to residents struggling with rising prices amid record-high inflation.

“California’s budget addresses the state’s most pressing needs, and prioritizes getting dollars back into the pockets of millions of Californians who are grappling with global inflation and rising prices of everything from gas to groceries,” Newsom, Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said in June when the provision was signed.

Payments will range from $200 for certain high-income earners to $1,050 for married, joint tax filers.

Similar to the pandemic-related Golden State Stimulus payment programs, recipients of the MCTR must be California residents and tax filers in order to qualify. The state will base relief payments on adjusted gross income found in 2021 tax returns.

Also like the GSS distribution, the Franchise Tax Board will be sending the relief money via direct deposits. Instead of sending out paper checks to the nonelectronic filers, the state will mail debit cards.

FTB representatives said Monday that the agency is working on a distribution calendar, but for now, recipients should expect most direct deposits to land between Oct. 7 and Nov. 14.

Households with joint tax filers will get as much as $1,050 if they have eligible dependents and earn less than $150,000 annually in AGI. The benefit falls to $750 for income earners above $150,000 and to $600 for dual-filers who earn $250,001 to $500,000. There is no benefit for joint filers who make more than $500,000 annually or single filers who earn $250,000.

Here’s how it breaks down for single tax filers and those who claim “head of household” on their tax returns:

—Less than $75,000 annually in adjusted gross income will get $700 if they have a dependent. Those with no dependents will get $350.

—$75,001 to $125,000: $500 (with dependent) or $250 without

—$125,001 to $250,000: $400 (with dependent) or $200 without.

MCTR distribution will go something like this, the FTB said Monday:

Direct deposit payments for Californians who received Golden State Stimulus (GSS) I or II will be issued to bank accounts Oct. 7-25, with the remaining direct deposits occurring between Oct. 28 and Nov. 14.

About 90% of the direct deposits will be issued in October.

Debit cards will be mailed between Oct. 25 and Dec. 10 for Californians who received GSS I and II. The remaining debit cards mailed by Jan. 15, 2023.

Click here to read the full article at the OC Register

A Tax Revolt in San Francisco?

Citizen tax revolts have been waged throughout American history. Indeed, the genesis of the United States was a dispute with Great Britain over taxes. The issue came to a head when colonists in Massachusetts dressed as Native Americans and dumped English tea into Boston Harbor. Literally, the original Tea Party.

But American independence didn’t stop citizens from protesting high taxes. Shays’ Rebellion in 1786 was an armed uprising in Massachusetts in response to a debt crisis among the citizenry and in opposition to the state government’s increased efforts to collect taxes both on individuals and their trades. Many historians believe that the difficulty in suppressing the revolt under the Articles of Confederation provided significant motivation to form a more powerful central government.

While the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788 did in fact provide stronger federal authority, it didn’t prevent tax revolts. The Whiskey Rebellion, a fierce revolt against the new tax on distilled spirits imposed shortly after the formation of the federal government, was an early test of George Washington’s presidency.

Fast forward to more modern times. California’s own Proposition 13, passed in a landslide election in 1978, initiated the modern tax revolt. And, in an echo of 1776, a new Tea Party movement began in 2009 with a call for lower taxes, a reduction of the national debt, and less government spending. The movement launched the political careers of several members of Congress, many of whom are still serving.

Today’s media likes to portray those of us associated with taxpayer advocacy as ultra-conservative. But in a surprising development, there is a nascent “tax revolt” in the Castro District of San Francisco — whose population, by any objective standard, is the polar opposite of “conservative.”

According to an article by Jessica Flores in the San Francisco Chronicle, business owners in the Castro have repeatedly complained to city officials about the damage that homeless people have inflicted in the neighborhood, only to have the city fail to address the problem.

In response to the indifference of city officials, the Castro Merchants Association sent a letter to city officials urging them to take action on behalf of the beleaguered neighborhood. The letter described the usual problems associated with California’s horrific homeless problem: Vandalized storefronts, open drug use, business owners and customers, not to mention the “psychotic episodes.”

Now merchants say the situation has gotten so bad that they’re threatening to possibly stop paying city taxes and fees. “If the city can’t provide the basic services for them to become a successful business, then what are we paying for?” a leader of the association told The Chronicle. “You can’t have a vibrant, successful business corridor when you have people passed out high on drugs, littering your sidewalk. These people need to get help.”

This threat to withhold taxes and fees may not be on the same level as the violent Whiskey Rebellion or the political sea change of Prop. 13. But it does reflect a problem more pronounced in California than almost anywhere else in America: Not getting the services we pay for.  Is it really so surprising that all citizens simply want services commensurate with the taxes they pay? In fact, complaints about California’s high tax burden often take a back seat to the fact that we pay a lot and get so little.

Click here to read the full article at OC Register

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read the full article at KPBS.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newsom also compared DeSantis to former President Donald Trump.

Click here to read the full article at FoxNews