<![CDATA[LWV Beach Cities - BLOG]]>Fri, 20 May 2022 14:44:01 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[10 Things You Can Do To Help People Vote in 2022]]>Tue, 17 May 2022 00:25:24 GMThttp://lwvbeachcities.org/blog/10-things-you-can-do-to-help-people-vote-in-2022Last Updated: February 17, 2022  by Maggie Bush and Megan Brown
Primary election season officially kicks off in March, when voters across Texas will weigh in on the issues that matter most to them. With many more primary elections scheduled this year, and with all of the House of Representatives and dozens of US Senate and Gubernatorial seats up for grabs in November, the results of this year’s elections will be felt for a long time to come.  
Here are ten ways YOU can help make sure this election year matters:  
  1. Check your voter registration and ask at least five friends to do the same. If you’ve moved or changed your name since the last time you voted, you most likely need to update your registration record. Don’t wait until it’s too late: check your status now.  
  2. Find out where the candidates stand on the issues that matter most to you. Bookmark our Webby award-winning site, VOTE411.org, and check back closer to your state’s elections to see who is on your ballot, what they stand for, and what options you have for voting. Our info is available in both English and Spanish —  and we’re committed to keeping the facts up to date even if voting rules change in your state.  
  3. Sign up to join the election workforce! Our elections depend on thousands of people working to staff and secure them every year. If you have time to spare, sign up as a poll worker. It’s a paid gig in many states!  
  4. Volunteer to help get voters ready for Election Day! Find your local League of Women Voters or another org whose work you admire.  
  5. Put your money to use for democracy! Support brands that value civic engagement and voting. The Civic Alliance is a great place to start
  6. Know a young person, new citizen, or someone else who will be voting for the first time? Share our First-Time Voter Checklist to help make sure they're prepared. 
  7. Find out who’s funding the candidates on your ballot. FollowTheMoney.org is a useful resource. 
  8. See or hear a problem with voting in your area? Call the Election Protection Hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE for help (find election helplines in additional languages at VOTE411.org). 
  9. Learn about our nation’s historic – and persistent – struggle for voting rights, then get involved in organizations whose mission you believe in.  
  10. Seriously, VOTE411 has everything you and your friends need to successfully cast your votes this year. Spread the word!  

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<![CDATA[‘We have failed’: how California’s homelessness catastrophe is worsening]]>Fri, 25 Mar 2022 00:28:17 GMThttp://lwvbeachcities.org/blog/we-have-failed-how-californias-homelessness-catastrophe-is-worsening
by Sam Levin in Los Angeles
March, 22 2022

A new Guardian US series reports on a seemingly intractable crisis, and hears from those living on the edge in one of America’s richest states

When California shut down in March 2020, advocates for unhoused people thought the state might finally be forced to solve its homelessness crisis. To slow the spread of Covid, they hoped, officials would have to provide people living outside with stable and private shelter and housing.

But in the two years since, California’s humanitarian catastrophe has worsened: deaths of people on the streets are rising; college students are living in their cars; more elderly residents are becoming unhoused; encampment communities are growing at beaches, parks, highway underpasses, lots and sidewalks.

California has the fifth largest economy in the world, a budget surplus, the most billionaires in the US and some of the nation’s wealthiest neighborhoods. Yet the riches of the Golden State have not yielded solutions that match the scale of the crisis that’s been raging for decades. Pandemic-era programs have had some success for a slice of the unhoused population, but many measures have fallen short.

Meanwhile, homelessness has become the top issue in political races. Polls in Los Angeles, which is home to 40% of the state’s unhoused population, suggest that a majority of voters want their governments to act faster, and that residents are angered by the immense human suffering caused by a seemingly intractable crisis. ​​
In response, governments across the state are increasingly cracking down on people sleeping outside. Out of the 20 largest cities in California, the majority have either passed or proposed new laws banning camping in certain places or have ramped up encampment sweeps. LA and Oakland passed laws meant to prohibit camping in certain zones; San Francisco’s mayor has pushed for a police crackdown on unhoused people using drugs in the Tenderloin neighborhood; Fresno adopted a law to fine people up to $250 for entering certain restricted areas; and Modesto, Bakersfield and Riverside are pushing to expand the number of park rangers in an effort to enforce anti-camping rules and related restrictions.

Some unhoused people and civil rights activists warn that those escalating efforts to force people off the streets are only further hurting the most vulnerable.

“We have failed in so many respects,” said Theo Henderson, a Los Angeles advocate for the unhoused, who was himself living outside until recently. “There are families with children living in automobiles. There are elderly and the infirm on the streets … It’s a dark time right now, and unhoused residents are very afraid.”


‘Unacceptable’ numbers

In a new series that will be published over the next several months, Guardian US is examining California’s homelessness crisis across the state.

While homelessness remains concentrated in major metro areas like Los Angeles, San Jose, the San Francisco Bay area and San Diego, communities from the north to the Mexico border are facing their own emergencies.
AdvertisementCalifornia counted 161,548 unhoused people in the state in January 2020, the most recent count data available. The count is a “point in time” estimate that tallies people living on the street or in shelters. Since it’s a rough snapshot of a single day, and doesn’t account for people who are hidden from public view or are unhoused but couch-surfing that night, it is considered a significant undercount.

At least 113,660 of those counted were classified as “unsheltered”, making California home to more than half of all people without shelter in America and the only state where more than 70% of the homeless population is unsheltered (by comparison, just 5% of New York’s homeless population was unsheltered.

The consequences of so many people living outside are severe and fatal. In 2015, the LA county coroner’s office recorded 613 deaths of unhoused people. That number has steadily climbed each year, rising to 1,609 fatalities in 2021, a spokesperson said. Those figures are an undercount, because the coroner only tracks fatalities considered sudden, unusual or violent. A report by the University of California, Los Angeles last year estimated that overdoses were a leading cause of death of unhoused people during the pandemic.

AdvertisementData analyses have revealed other disturbing trends: one UCLA study estimated that at least 269,000 students from kindergarten to grade 12 in the state were experiencing homelessness before the pandemic; in LA county, Black residents were four times as likely to be unhoused; and also in LA, there was a 20% jump in the number of unhoused seniors, with nearly 5,000 elderly people living outside before Covid arrived.

“It’s just not acceptable,” said Wendy Carrillo, a state assemblymember who represents parts of LA and chairs a budget committee on homelessness. As a kid, she would pass by Skid Row and struggle to understand why so many people were forced to live outside, she said. The crisis has grown since: “We’ve become so disconnected as a society, so cold to the issue that people are OK with stepping over someone who is passed out on the floor.”

A $14bn investment – and a crackdown on camping

California’s catastrophe stems in part from a longstanding, statewide housing affordability crisis. Californians spend significantly more of their income on housing compared with the rest of the nation. More than 1.5 million renters spend half of their earnings on rent, leaving them potentially one medical emergency or crisis away from homelessness. In recent years, income inequality has only worsened.

UCLA research on the residents of one LA encampment found that people cited a range of factors that led them to become unhoused, including eviction, job loss, domestic violence, former incarceration, family conflict and low wages in gig economy jobs.

Responding to the crisis, California is pouring billions of dollars into housing and related services, but the success of new programs meant to expand affordable housing and emergency shelter has been mixed.
“One of the challenges of housing policy is that it’s like turning around a giant ship. It’s a slow process,” said Shamus Roller, executive director of the National Housing Law Project. The state has made significant progress in recent years in investing in housing, he noted, but the benefits can sometimes take more than a decade to materialize.

There are also systemic and historical problems that housing programs can’t solve, including the loss of social safety nets, the dissolution of redevelopment programs, and a controversial state tax measure passed in 1978 that has created significant obstacles for new home ownership, Roller said.
And some regions have invested more in temporary shelter programs than in permanent housing, making it hard for people to transition out of shelters, especially as the housing market worsens and as more people newly become unhoused, advocates said.

AdvertisementEmblematic of the challenges is California’s signature homelessness response during the pandemic: Project Roomkey. The program temporarily provided motel rooms to an estimated 50,000 people living on the streets. But the program was administered at the local level and some counties fell short of their goals or failed to meet the demand in their regions; participants reported struggling to find housing after hotel stays ended and some returned to the streets because of the strict rules in the program, advocates said.
This year, the California governor, Gavin Newsom, is pushing a $14bn investment in homelessness solutions, meant to create 55,000 new housing units and treatment slots. His Homekey initiative, the successor to Project Roomkey, allows local governments to buy motels to use as temporary or permanent housing for unhoused people. As of last week, the state has awarded $695m for more than 2,400 units.

While the programs could be transformative for some participants, advocates worry their impact for many could come too late, especially with statewide eviction protections expiring at the end of the month and pandemic-era rent relief efforts winding down. Even with a partial eviction moratorium in place, sheriffs enforced lockouts of thousands of households in the first year of the pandemic, according to a CalMatters analysis.

“We are getting a lot of calls from tenants who are being evicted,” said Jovana Morales-Tilgren, housing policy coordinator with Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, a Central Valley-based organization. “A lot of undocumented folks don’t have the resources to battle an eviction notice … and then there are not enough shelters for the unhoused people.”
Meanwhile, advocates warn, conditions for those living on the streets are only getting harder amid increasing restrictions on camping. A proposed state law would also allow courts to force some people with severe mental illness into treatment.

The crackdown on tent living and fear of possible forced treatment can lead people to scatter into more hidden locations where it can be harder for them to access services and get into programs, advocates say.
“Using law enforcement to respond to houselessness is both counterproductive and ineffective,” said Eve Garrow, policy analyst and advocate at the ACLU of Southern California. The expansion of criminalization was overwhelming, Garrow said. “And people are experiencing compassion fatigue, and they want something done. Local public officials are responding with what they see as ‘quick fixes’ that aren’t fixes at all and are completely misguided.”

‘I don’t want to die on the streets’

People living on the streets or in temporary shelters waiting for housing said they were worried and exhausted by the increasingly hostile rhetoric of politicians and communities.

“Unhoused people are blamed for every social ill,” said Henderson, who regularly talks to unhoused residents on his podcast. “There’s an uptick in burglaries, and then the response is, ‘Can we get the unhoused removed?’ Every unhoused person has those stories – as soon as something happens, here comes the police looking at them as the prime suspect.”

Kenneth Stallworth, who has been living in a group shelter since his Venice Beach encampment was shut down in a high-profile dispute last year, said he didn’t mind the shelter and appreciated the electricity, but also noted that he had seen several people die or have health emergencies in the facility.

“The people are getting what they want,” he said of his fellow Angelenos. “The homeless are getting moved away from areas where there were the most complaints.”

Dawn Toftee, 57, was living at an encampment near the stadium where the Super Bowl was held in LA last month, until she was forced to leave in advance of the big game. Officials said the residents were offered housing, but a month later, Toftee is camping down the street – and is still waiting for a housing voucher that could subsidize a rental.

“I’m getting old and I don’t want to die on the streets,” she said, adding that she didn’t think officials cared whether people like her got housing: “They just want us out of eyesight.”
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<![CDATA[On What Just Happened to Medicare for All in California—and the Organizing We Need to Win]]>Wed, 23 Mar 2022 19:29:01 GMThttp://lwvbeachcities.org/blog/on-what-just-happened-to-medicare-for-all-in-california-and-the-organizing-we-need-to-win
February 8, 2022  by Michael Lighty

Why is a healthcare system—Medicare for All—that costs less described as "too expensive?"

Why hasn't the overwhelming popularity of Medicare for All—85% of Democrats, 66% of independents and 52% (!) of GOP support it—translated into legislative majorities?

We need a healthcare justice coalition guided by a strategic assessment of what it will take to win with the ability to communicate effectively against the industry's lies.

Why is Medicare for All, a version of which is utilized in 50 countries around the world, presented as 'untested?'
The recent demise of the Medicare for All style reform bill in California, AB 1400, reveals some answers. The Wall Street Journal, who haven't met a for-profit healthcare model they don't like, suggest that if Medicare for All cannot be done in California, it won't happen in the United States. And the opposite is more likely true: if we can do it in California, Medicare for All will be adopted nationally.

AB 1400, also known as "CalCare" sponsored by the California Nurses Association/NNU, was the latest version of a single-payer bill to be considered in the California Legislature designed to help lead the US towards Medicare for All. Since the 1994 ballot initiative for single payer that was heavily defeated—it received fewer votes than the petition signatures gathered to put it on the ballot—numerous single payer bills have passed one or both houses of the legislature, and those that made it to the Governor's desk were vetoed.

Many advocates were encouraged when Gov. Gavin Newsom campaigned in support of the prior bill, SB 562, since the lack of gubernatorial support had proven fatal to reform efforts. As a result, the Healthy California Now coalition of organizations sought to hold Newsom to his promise and to utilize the Healthy California for All Commission he sponsored to move a single payer agenda. The pandemic delayed that Commission's work, but it is on track to release a report in April likely favorable to what they term "unified financing," having issued reports that demonstrated the unsustainability, inequities and expense of the present healthcare system compared to the cost and coverage advantages of single payer.
Rather than wait and rely on the Governor's leadership, advocates sought to rally around a bill as the preferred organizing strategy and a necessary policy step to apply for the approvals from the Biden administration necessary to finance a state single payer program (known as ACA Section 1332 waivers).
The resulting bill AB 1400 faced significant hurdles in the California Assembly, which has a large contingent of pro-corporate Democrats, despite a nearly three-fourths Democratic majority (which has been eroded by early retirements). To protect its profits and power, the healthcare industry—the insurance companies, corporate hospital chains, and prescription drug corporations, which can charge whatever they want, choose our doctors, and restrict access to treatments—rolled out a series of lies:
  • Expensive and unproven approach to health care (only the US relies upon commercial insurance to allocate healthcare)
  • Removes consumer choice (of health plans, such as it is)
  • Threatens California’s ability to respond to future public health emergencies (as if the present system has done such a great job addressing Covid-19)
  • Californians need a stable health care system we can rely on (which is why we need single payer).

The Assembly Speaker required the AB 1400 author, Assembly member Ash Kalra, to develop a financing plan as a condition to move the bill through the legislative process. After eight months of work, Kalra complied in late December. With the introduction of the financing plan, known as ACA 11, the debate focused on the taxes necessary to replace the current premiums, co-payments, and deductibles: the media narrative adopted the industry perspective and highlighted the supposed costs of single payer.

No one mentioned that the "private taxes" workers and employers pay for healthcare are the greatest financial burden faced by the middle class, as the Commission had shown. Nor did we hear about the much greater expense of the present system ($517 billion in 2022!) even though it provides less benefits, is hugely inequitable, and includes out of pocket costs of $2000 per year from each Californian just for the administration of the commercial insurance system. AB 1400 proponents didn't utilize the very favorable studies and analysis provided by the Commission—the Los Angeles Times pointed to one study after the fact, but it's not just "supporters" who assert single payer will cost less (see researchers from UCSF review of 22 financing studies, 20 of which show savings from single-payer).

The bill moved to the Assembly Health Committee, where it passed 11-3 in early January. Time was of the essence, since for the bill to advance to the state Senate, it had to pass the Assembly by January 31st.
At this point significant changes in AB 1400 were made to how the bill's policies would be implemented. Rather than go through the legislature this year never to return, amendments were adopted that required the bill's governing board to apply for the necessary federal support, review and certify the sufficiency of the financing plan, and report back to the legislature which would have to vote again by July 1, 2024, to implement the resulting program, and send the financing plan to the voters for ultimate approval. In short, AB 1400 expressed the intent of the legislature and set up a process for implementation that depended on legislative votes and on winning a ballot initiative.

Given existing provisions in the California constitution regarding the size of the state budget and revenues devoted to education, a ballot initiative seemed inevitable to most observers, but many advocates presented a successful adoption of AB 1400 this year as "enacting CalCare," which was not the case.

The message environment matters, and single payer proponents are not winning the media narrative.

So how much of a setback is Assembly member's Kalra decision not to bring up AB 1400 for a vote? Rather than risk a double-digit defeat and solidify a negative position among colleagues whose support he needs and expects, Ash Kalra opted to fight another day. Advocates expressed outrage and a sense of betrayal. It's appropriate to hold elected officials accountable by forcing them to go on record on a bill, if we are prepared to act electorally to replace them, including having a fund and organizing strategy for credible primary challengers. That wasn't the case here. AB 1400 has been characterized as the only true single payer bill in California history, yet all of its provisions were subject to federal approval and further state legislative review.

In fact, the "first step" established by the amended AB 1400 can still be taken by the Governor with legislative authorization if necessary and incorporating the Commission's analysis and the key principles put forth in AB 1400. Once the federal support and approval for financing and program is secured by the Newsom administration, the California Legislature could approve it and send it to the ballot. The timeline would be at least as soon as in the amended AB 1400. There can be a convergence of state legislative and executive approaches.

Much has been accomplished. AB 1400 supporters organized the most comprehensive grassroots digital lobbying campaign ever, building a key infrastructure for future campaigns. The bill received significant endorsements, though the organizations including unions, that provide campaign funding and volunteers to elect Democrats did not make AB 1400 a priority. Organizational capacity to take on the industry was insufficient. There is also not a sufficient working-class base, particularly in non-union workplaces and during labor disputes, demanding single payer as the solution to the on-going healthcare crisis, and especially to the inequities exposed by the pandemic. We need to bring the diverse healthcare reformers who are in Sacramento everyday urging immediate improvements to pressure legislators for single payer. We need to be able to persuade and if necessary, force politicians to guarantee healthcare—not simply adopt "universal coverage" with all its gaps and disparities—whether they or their donors want to or not. That takes greater organizational and institutional support, and base building, in addition to activist mobilization.

The message environment matters, and single payer proponents are not winning the media narrative. Our slogan could be "We Care, They Scare. Better Healthcare, Not Bigger Profits." We must educate and inoculate voters, which takes door-knocking, earned media and paid ads, funded by tens of millions of dollars over a few years. Once the industry funded TV campaign begins against a ballot initiative—and we can expect based on recent ballot fights $200 million to publicize their lies about high costs, taxes, unreliability, lost jobs and limited choice under single payer—we'll need to be on TV, too.

This year in California we can establish the building blocks for single payer—seeking federal support, covering undocumented residents, setting up the infrastructure to set a state healthcare budget and rates, establishing a "single payer" for prescription drugs, and unwinding the for-profit domination of the state's low-income health program, Medi-Cal.

We need a healthcare justice coalition guided by a strategic assessment of what it will take to win with the ability to communicate effectively against the industry's lies. Can one bill do it all? Maybe not. But strategic organizing can.
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<![CDATA[Deferred and Accelerated Voters: Redistricting and the California State Senate]]>Wed, 05 Jan 2022 20:39:43 GMThttp://lwvbeachcities.org/blog/deferred-and-accelerated-voters-redistricting-and-the-california-state-senate
Background
California state Senators are elected every four years. The terms are staggered; those from even-numbered districts elected in one statewide General Election, and those from odd-numbered districts two years later. This creates a problem when district lines are redrawn every ten years. All of the new district lines for the state Assembly and US Congress take effect at the next election – but for the state Senate, the process is staggered, with new district lines taking effect for only half of the districts imme-diately after redistricting, and the other lines taking effect two years later.

Deferred Voters
In 2022 voters will elect new state senators in even-numbered districts for new four-year terms. State Senators in odd-numbered districts were elected in 2020. Some voters may find themselves moved from an even-numbered district to an odd-numbered one. For these individuals, voting in a state Senate race will be deferred until 2024. The Citizens Redistricting Commission did attempt to create and number districts that cause as few voters as possible to defer voting for another two years.

Accelerated Voters
Accelerated voters are the opposite of deferred voters. These are voters who voted in odd-numbered state Senate districts in 2020, and now, in 2022, are in even-numbered districts. They will vote for state Senator in both 2020 and 2022.

What happens to voters in deferred areas? Who do they contact as “their” state Senator?
In 2013, the state Senate set the following rules:
Due to redistricting, Senate districts have a unique issue that Assembly and Congressional districts do not have. Of the Senate districts established by the Citizens Redistricting Commis-sion in 2011, only the odd-numbered districts went into effect for the 2012 election cycle. The new even-numbered districts will go into effect for the 2014 election cycle, and the even-numbered districts previously established by the 2001 redistricting will continue to exist until 2014. These unique circumstances create some areas of overlap between the old and new districts (“accelerated areas”) and some areas without coverage (“deferred areas”). For the 2013-14 Regular Session of the Legislature, each accelerated area essentially has two Sena-tors representing the area and each deferred area has none. The Senate Committee on Rules will assign a Senator to provide appropriate constituent services to each deferred area. This is a normal consequence of the redistricting process.

Assuming that the Senate applies the same practice in 2023, Senators in even-numbered districts will be elected in 2022, and the Senate Committee on Rules will assign a Senator to each deferred area.

You can find your state representatives at this website.
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<![CDATA[A BOOMING TWO-WHEELED ELECTRIC REVOLUTION]]>Wed, 22 Dec 2021 20:11:24 GMThttp://lwvbeachcities.org/blog/a-booming-two-wheeled-electric-revolutionNational Geographic – December 21, 2021
So far, the U.S. government has handed out $10 billion in subsidies to purchase electric vehicles using tax credits.

The EV's tinier, dramatically greener cousin, the e-bike, hasn’t gotten squat—although there’s a chance that Americans might get e-bike rebates if the Senate approves the Build Back Better Act, already passed by the House.

Before we go there, why an e-bike? Doesn’t that just help you chug up a hill? Proponents say sales have jumped in recent years because of improvements in pricing, power, and lithium-ion battery technology. About that battery: It’s 1/90th the size of its EV cousin, a much more efficient use of cobalt and other rare earths, and much quicker to charge.

E-bikes begin at about $500 and can go up 10 times or so higher. The House-passed bill would give a credit of 30
percent for up to $3,000 spent on a new e-bike, excluding bikes that cost more than $4,000. The goal is to put more fannies in e-bike seats, Bloomberg’s Ira Boudway explains.

Back in September, a Nat Geo story proclaimed the future was electric. Writer Craig Welch was referring to EVs, but the new year may prove interesting for its spunky two-wheeled cousin, too.
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<![CDATA[Here are 22 new laws Californians must start following in 2022]]>Sat, 18 Dec 2021 18:47:47 GMThttp://lwvbeachcities.org/blog/here-are-22-new-laws-californians-must-start-following-in-2022
San Francisco Chronicle –December 6, 2021

Even as state lawmakers scaled back their agendas to accommodate another session upended by the coronavirus pandemic, the California Legislature passed hundreds of bills, big and small, this year. Many of them take effect on Jan. 1, changing the rules on everything from how we vote to whether you can order a margarita with your Mexican takeout. Here are 22 new laws coming to California in 2022:

Housing: Will the California suburbs ever be the same? After several years of battles over single-family zoning and housing density, legislators passed SB9 by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, which creates a streamlined process to split lots, add second units to the properties and convert homes into duplexes. Experts estimate it could help add hundreds of thousands of homes across the state by allowing up to four units on some properties that had just one before, though some cities have already rushed to limit its impact on their communities.

Another new measure to build out existing neighborhoods, SB10 by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, was targeted with a lawsuit almost as soon as it was signed. It allow cities to rezone some parcels in urban areas, including those near public transit, for up to 10 units without going through extensive environmental reviews. Wiener’s SB487 also tries to address California’s housing shortage by loosening regulations that limit square footage for a project based on lot size, which could clear the way for more small apartment buildings.
Policing: The guilty verdict in the George Floyd murder trial reinvigorated debate over over how to transform law enforcement practices, with California adopting wide-ranging changes to its hiring and use-of-force standards.
AB89 by Assembly Member Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, raises the minimum age for new officers to 21 and directs the community college system to develop a mandatory policing curriculum. Police could be fired for participating in a “law enforcement gang,” a group of officers within a department that engage in a pattern of rogue on-duty behavior, under AB958 by Assembly Member Mike Gipson, D-Carson (Los Angeles County).

AB481 by Assembly Member David Chiu, D-San Francisco, requires law enforcement agencies to seek approval from their local governing bodies when they buy surplus military equipment, while AB26, by Assembly Member Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, instructs them to adopt policies that mandate immediate reporting when an officer witnesses a colleague using excessive force and punishes those who do not intervene.

Police can no longer use restraints and transport methods that carry a substantial risk of suffocating the suspect under Gipson’s AB490, and AB48 by Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, prohibits them from firing rubber bullets or tear gas at a protest unless it is a life-threatening situation.

More types of personnel records will be subject to public disclosure under SB16, by Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, including those related to excessive use of force and sustained findings of failure to intervene, unlawful arrests and searches, and discrimination.

But the most significant measure, establishing a decertification process to strip officers of their badges for professional misconduct, will not take effect for another year.

Criminal justice: California continues to roll back its tough approach to imprisonment of decades past. Wiener’s SB73 ends mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug crimes, giving judges discretion to hand down probation instead of jail time for offenses such as possessing a small amount of heroin for sale and manufacturing methamphetamine. Skinner’s SB81 directs judges considering sentencing enhancements to give greater weight to mitigating factors, such as whether the offense was connected to mental illness or childhood trauma and whether the enhancement is based on a prior conviction that is more than five years old.

But the state is also cracking down on sex crimes. AB1171 by Assembly Member Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens (Los Angeles County), eliminates criminal code that treats “spousal rape” differently from rape, making prison time and sex offender registration mandatory in those cases. Garcia’s AB453 criminalizes the nonconsensual removal of condoms during intercourse, known as “stealthing.”

Environment: As the wildfire season gets longer and more destructive, California is encouraging prescribed burns to clear overgrowth and create buffers between wildlands and communities. SB332 by Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, could enable more private controlled fires by reducing the legal liability for burn bosses when a fire escapes control lines and requires an emergency response.

Building on earlier restrictions for plastic straws, AB1276 by Assembly Member Wendy Carrillo, D-Los Angeles, prohibits dine-in restaurants, drive-thrus and food-delivery platforms from handing out single-use utensils and condiment packets unless the customer asks.

Employment: After the pandemic overwhelmed California’s unemployment insurance system — leading to endless wait times for benefits and potentially tens of billions of dollars in fraudulent claims — lawmakers passed a suite of measures to overhaul it. Those include AB397 by Assembly Member Chad Mayes, I-Yucca Valley (San Bernardino County), which requires the Employment Development Department to provide advance notice if it plans to reject a claim and give the person a chance to correct any mistakes on their application before they are disqualified from eligibility.

The state is wading into the Amazon labor wars with AB701 by Gonzalez, which clamps down on warehouse productivity quotas that critics say jeopardize health and safety. The law requires companies to disclose their quotas, prohibits them from punishing workers who take bathroom breaks or mandatory rest periods, and create legal paths for employees to challenge working conditions.

... and the rest: Elections officials will mail every active registered voter in California a ballot for all future elections under AB37 by Assembly Member Marc Berman, D-Menlo Park, permanently extending a pandemic safety measure.

Another feature of pandemic life that’s not going away: cocktails to-go. Dodd’s SB389 allows restaurants to keep selling takeout mixed drinks and glasses of wine through the end of 2026.

California is streamlining its assisted death process, making it easier for terminally ill patients to obtain a lethal prescription and end their lives on their own terms. SB380 by Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton, shortens a mandatory 15 days that patients must wait between making two separate requests for the life-ending drugs to just 48 hours. Many patients have died before they were able to complete the process because they became too sick to continue.

Echoing similar steps at the federal level, AB1096 by Assembly Member Luz Rivas, D-North Hollywood (Los Angeles County), strikes the word “alien” from state law and replaces it with alternatives like “person who is not a citizen.” Considered by some to be an offensive and dehumanizing term for immigrants, alien was previously removed from California’s labor and education codes in 2015 and 2016.

Alexei Koseff is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: alexei.koseff@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @akoseff







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<![CDATA[Facing housing crisis, L.A. voters back duplexes in single-family neighborhoods]]>Fri, 03 Dec 2021 20:48:13 GMThttp://lwvbeachcities.org/blog/facing-housing-crisis-la-voters-back-duplexes-in-single-family-neighborhoods
A majority of Los Angeles County voters back two new state laws designed to spur housing construction, including one that significantly changes traditional single-family zoning, a new poll finds.

The poll, by the Los Angeles Business Council Institute, done in cooperation with the Los Angeles Times, provides one of the first tests of public reaction to the new laws, which could bring about a dramatic change to California’s development landscape.

The laws, Senate Bills 9 and 10, take effect Jan. 1.

They were a culmination of a years-long debate in Sacramento over local zoning restrictions that can drag down housing production. The fight stirred intense opposition among homeowner groups, especially in Los Angeles, where opponents said the proposals threatened to destroy single-family neighborhoods.

Countywide, 55% of voters support Senate Bill 9, which lets property owners construct duplexes, and in some cases four-plexes, in most single-family-home neighborhoods statewide. By contrast, 27% were against the law while 18% were undecided.

Senate Bill 10, which lets local city councils expedite construction of apartment complexes of up to 10 units near transit hubs and urban infill areas, including in single-family-home zones, gets stronger support. It has support of 68% of county voters with 13% opposed and 19% undecided.
The poll showed a sharp difference between homeowners and renters, especially on SB 9. Renters backed the law by more than 3 to 1, while homeowners were closely divided, the poll found.

Almost two-thirds of all the residences in the state are single-family homes and as much as three-quarters of the developable land in the state is now zoned only for single-family housing, according to a survey by UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation.

Bungalows and backyards also have long been seen as a key to the “California dream” of modest, middle-class living.

But such homes continue to become less and less affordable. The median sales price for an existing single-family home statewide was $798,440 in October, according to the California Assn. of Realtors, an increase of more than 12% over the last year. In L.A. County, the median sales price of $848,970 was almost 14% higher than last year.

Advocates for the new laws contend that they can help moderate prices by spurring home building in areas that have been off-limits to new growth.

“The housing affordability crisis is undermining the California dream for families across the state, and threatens our long-term growth and prosperity,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said when signing the laws in September.

“Making a meaningful impact on this crisis will take bold investments, strong collaboration ... and political courage from our leaders and communities to do the right thing and build housing for all.”

Renter support for SB 9 likely stems from the hope that the law may make it easier to own homes, said Mark DiCamillo, polling director at UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, who acted as a consultant for The Times on the new poll.

“I think a lot of renters are trying to break into the homeownership realm,” DiCamillo said. “They see this as a potential way to expand supply and get smaller units to enter the market.”

DiCamillo said he was surprised that even a plurality of homeowners backed the new law, given its potential to disrupt single-family-home neighborhoods.

The findings, including among homeowners, he said, “have to be encouraging for proponents of the new law.”

In the legislative debate, however, disputes over the new law weren’t neatly partisan.

The Los Angeles City Council, where 14 of 15 representatives are Democrats, overwhelmingly opposed the two laws, with West L.A. Councilman Paul Koretz, a Democrat, saying they would “kill communities and the environment.” Some advocates in South L.A. opposed the new laws on the grounds that they would promote gentrification.

Some Republicans in the state Legislature were supportive of the two laws, arguing that they expand homeowners’ property rights.

Already, some cities across the state are planning policies to blunt the effects of SB 9. Some, for example, would limit the size and height of new developments, mandate parking spots and require that additional housing units be rented only to those making moderate or low incomes.
Legal challenges over such measures are likely.

It’s also possible that the new laws will not make a dramatic difference.

The laws don’t prohibit the construction of new single-family homes. SB 9 allows property owners to build duplexes — or fourplexes — on their land if they want to, but doesn’t require that anyone do so. Any changes inaugurated by SB 10 require a city council’s approval first.

Also, other zoning changes in recent years have already made it a lot easier for property owners to build smaller secondary homes — known as granny flats, casitas or accessory dwelling units — on parcels zoned for single-family homes.

The poll was conducted between Oct. 27 and Nov. 3 among 906 registered voters in L.A. County. The sample was split for the questions on SB 9 and SB 10, with roughly half the voters asked about each bill. The margin of error for those results is 4.5 percentage points in either direction.
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<![CDATA[Cities consider taking police out of traffic stops]]>Tue, 02 Nov 2021 07:00:00 GMThttp://lwvbeachcities.org/blog/cities-consider-taking-police-out-of-traffic-stopsLocalities like Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, and Berkeley, California, are re-imagining traffic enforcement amid national calls for police reform.
Published June 3, 2021 smartcitiesdive.com

The city of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, last month became one of the latest localities to re-imagine the role of policing in traffic stops.

The city council passed a package of police reforms that calls for unarmed civilians — not police officers — to enforce certain traffic violations. The move follows an April incident in which a White former police officer shot and killed a 20-year-old Black man during a traffic stop.

Brooklyn Center isn’t alone in potentially overhauling its approach to policing and traffic enforcement. A recent Virginia bill limits the number of reasons police officers can pull over a driver, and the city of Berkeley, California, passed reforms in February that aim to limit police interactions at traffic stops.

These changes come roughly one year after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. They provide a potential model for other cities looking to address calls for police reform by removing officers from certain roles, using other approaches to enforce street safety instead.

"One of the biggest key themes of what we've been talking about in this body of work is about identifying the intersections between transportation policy and policing," said Berkeley City Councilmember Rigel Robinson. "And recognizing that in so many ways, mobility justice is racial justice."

Traffic enforcement should really be a transportation safety issue

Traffic stops are one of the most common ways the public interacts with police, according to research from the Stanford Open Policing Project.

Over 20 million U.S. residents are stopped by police for traffic violations each year. Black drivers are disproportionately more likely to be pulled over, on average, than White drivers, according to that research.

That racial disparity has scholars and other experts proposing alternative, transportation-driven solutions to enforcing traffic laws. "The key thing that we're doing is we're saying that traffic enforcement should really be a transportation safety issue," said Jordan Blair Woods, associate professor of law at the University of Arkansas School of Law.

First and foremost, he said, it’s important for the communities seeking alternative policing solutions to be the ones that drive those decisions. Ideally, he said, cities can create a Department of Transportation that includes unarmed traffic monitors to conduct traffic stops.

Certain technologies could also help reduce interactions between police and motorists. Automated traffic enforcement solutions like red light cameras and speed cameras, for instance, could be used in lieu of police officers.

However, Woods cautioned that automated enforcement can still perpetuate the racial inequities cities are trying to fix. Local leaders should ensure they don’t disproportionately place more cameras in communities of color, he warned. Automated ticketing can also be particularly harmful to low-income communities, he said.  

"We don't want traffic ticketing to essentially be a backdoor way that vulnerable communities and marginalized communities are funneled into the criminal justice system," he said. "There needs to be some sort of civilian oversight."

Non-tech solutions like lowering speed limits —  one of the most effective ways to reduce traffic deaths — and adding signage could also improve safe driving. More cities are considering those solutions as the U.S. grapples with a record year for pedestrian deaths amid a period of dangerous driving during the pandemic.
 
Potential roadblocks

The move to reform traffic stops still faces challenges.

The No. 1 obstacle, according to Woods, is the idea among law enforcement officers that traffic stops are especially dangerous. That idea is a myth, he said.

Violence against officers during police stops is rare; those stops are often low-risk and do not involve weapons, according to Woods' 2019 research. In a study of over 200 law enforcement agencies across Florida during a 10-year period, the rate of a "felonious killing of an officer during a routine traffic stop was only one in every 6.5 million stops," the article states.

State law also poses challenges to certain cities, Woods said, explaining that there are questions about whether state traffic laws or codes allow non-police officers to enforce traffic laws.

Hans Menos, vice president of law enforcement initiatives at the Center for Policing Equity (CPE), said public messaging will be one of the key obstacles to moving these efforts forward. Certain police leaders are telling the public that removing police from low-level offenses will also remove their ability to look for guns or encounter "bad guys," he said.

Using data to inform critical decisions

Data has also played an important role in shaping these decisions.

CPE worked with the city of Berkeley in 2018 to produce a data-driven report to better understand local policing practices. Through that research, the group found that Black and Hispanic people were much more likely to be stopped by police. Black drivers were about 6.5 times more likely per capita to be stopped by police than White drivers, and Black pedestrians were also 4.5 times more likely to be stopped on foot. Hispanic drivers were about twice as likely per capita to be stopped while driving than White drivers.

That information "set the table" for local decision-makers to understand the actual problems that exist and look at what’s possible in terms of reform, according to Menos. The data tells a clear story, he said, and it doesn’t allow biases about policing to get in the way.

To help address those inequities, the city of Berkeley passed multiple reforms earlier this year. Police officers will no longer stop drivers for certain minor offenses, for one. Other reforms include enforcing an intervention system to get biased officers "off the street" and determining the legality of firing officers who post racist social media content.

The Berkeley Police Association has opposed the measures, the Mercury News reports.

The city's Police Department forwarded a statement to Smart Cities Dive from a city spokesperson, saying they "are in a very preliminary stage" of addressing the reforms and have no further comment beyond certain information provided online at this time. A May 2021 document from the city's Fair and Impartial Policing (FIP) Task Force states: "The Berkeley Police Department is committed to continued collaboration with the FIP Task Force as we move towards full implementation."

Philip Stinson, a criminal justice professor at Bowling Green State University, said he worries that removing police officers from traffic stops, while well-intentioned, could have tragic results and end with just one traffic stop gone bad. We do have to re-imagine policing, though, he said, as there are many functions that local law enforcement agencies across the U.S. have been tasked with that were never meant to be police responsibilities.

Police departments have been asked to do 'too much

The calls to remove police officers from traffic stops align with recent messaging from city leaders that police departments have been asked to do "too much for too long."

At a recent U.S. Conference of Mayors panel, experts said police have been "overburdened" and are not trained to deal with issues like mental health or homelessness. We have been overburdening them with things that they are not equipped to deal with," Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said during the event.
Read More in Transportation

Menos agrees with that sentiment. "Most police officers didn't join policing to be the folks who handle these low-level ticketing offenses," Menos said. "Police are burdened." Taking away activities like traffic stops or mental health responses can give police the opportunity to instead engage the community in other ways or just focus on crime, he said.

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<![CDATA[Tackling Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis requires an ambitious reform agenda]]>Fri, 22 Oct 2021 18:30:03 GMThttp://lwvbeachcities.org/blog/tackling-los-angeles-homelessness-crisis-requires-an-ambitious-reform-agendaCalifornia’s crisis of homelessness is driven by high housing costs. Despite the state’s wealth, strong economic growth, and robust social safety net, California has the highest poverty rate, at over 15%, of any state using the Census Bureau’s cost-of-living adjusted measure. Check out the Cato Institute’s Project on Poverty and Inequality.
Los Angeles county Sheriffs go from tent to tent on Venice beach asking the homeless occupants if they would like to move off of the beach into a shelter Wednesday, June 23, 2021.  (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
Opinion by Michael Tanner |Los Angeles Daily News - October 21, 2021

This spring, an order from federal District Judge David O. Carter that Los Angeles provide shelter for all people currently encamped on skid row threw most of the city’s elected officials into a panic. Last month, they were temporarily saved from having to solve the homelessness crisis when a three-judge appeals court threw out Judge Carter’s decision.

But while city officials — and taxpayers — are momentarily off the hook, the thousands of Californians trapped on the street, in L.A. and across the state, are not.

There are roughly 63,000 homeless Angelenos, and more than 161,000 statewide, meaning California has the highest rate of homelessness in the nation. By some estimates, California has 48 percent of all unsheltered homeless Americans. Clearly, this situation cannot be allowed to continue.

This week, the Cato Institute’s Project on Poverty and Inequality in California released a report on ways to reduce poverty in the Golden State, and strategies for tackling homelessness loom large. In fact, fully one-third of the report deals with how to resolve high housing costs and the homeless crisis. And these two issues are deeply entwined.

Despite what some have claimed, California’s crisis of homelessness is driven by high housing costs. True, many people experiencing homelessness struggle with mental health or substance use challenges. But a majority of homeless Californians simply “fell to the street” because they were unable afford rent. In fact, data from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority showed that a majority of people experiencing homelessness cited economic reasons for their loss of housing.
Judge Carter’s order, however well-intentioned, would have brought a temporary respite at best because it failed to deal with the underlying problem.  It would be akin to bailing out a leaky boat without plugging the holes.  While the order included a provision that the city devote $1 billion to homeless services, this would have been less than 2016’sProposition HHH, which has already fallen behind on its 10,000-unit goal. And even that goal lags behind Los Angeles’ still-growing homeless population.

A pro-housing agenda addresses both the overall cost of housing and the cost-effectiveness of resources like supportive housing and shelters. Specifically, exclusionary zoning is a major factor in high housing costs. Parking requirements then add an estimated $27,000 per space for each home. Meanwhile, minimum lot sizes, set to 5,000 square feet for the most common zone in Los Angeles, mandate that homebuyers and renters buy square footage that they may not want or need.

To be sure, not everyone may want to buy or rent homes on small lots without parking, but it is individual homebuyers and renters who should make this choice instead of planning boards foisting this decision upon them. While California’s new SB 9 housing law is a step in the right direction, it leaves in place too many exclusionary requirements such as parking and lot size minimums.

Some of Los Angeles’ biggest successes have taken advantage of relaxed land-use restrictions. One project for homeless Angelenos, Bungalow Gardens in South Los Angeles, includes eight units with a subsidy of half a million dollars from Los Angeles County: less than the cost of a single Prop. HHH unit. The project, duplexes surrounding a central garden, is a design that is familiar across Southern California, but largely banned today due to density, parking, and other regulations. Los Angeles should expand these regulatory changes that have allowed for successes like Bungalow Gardens and cleared the way for more housing production.

Beyond boosting the building of new housing, California must enact a broad program of reforms to ensure that fewer of its residents are in poverty, a paycheck away from losing housing. Despite the state’s wealth, strong economic growth, and robust social safety net, California has the highest poverty rate, at over 15%, of any state using the Census Bureau’s cost-of-living adjusted measure.

While housing is central to this, and homelessness is the most visible face of poverty in California, the reforms needed to move the Golden State past its crisis of poverty extend to other areas as well. We must reform funding rules that short-change charter schools, stop overcriminalization that disproportionately affect poorer Californians, repeal professional licensing laws that lock individuals out of the economy, eliminate asset tests that punish welfare recipients for saving money, and a host of other regressive laws that put poorer Californians on an uneven playing field.

All these reforms and more must be part of California’s agenda for reducing poverty and keeping people from falling to the streets.

Michael Tanner, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, directs the Institute’s Project on Poverty and Inequality in California.
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<![CDATA[Your Guide to Mis- and Disinformation]]>Thu, 14 Oct 2021 23:40:41 GMThttp://lwvbeachcities.org/blog/your-guide-to-mis-and-disinformation
Lilly McGee  7/12/2021

Mis- and dis-information are two of the most insidious tools used to undermine our democracy and the value of every person’s voice. Learn how to recognize them and stop them in their tracks. 

What Are Mis- and Disinformation? 

Misinformation: inadvertently sharing false information without the intent to harm 
Ex. Your sister says that the latest local bill will raise taxes because that’s what she heard from a trusted friend. 
Disinformation: intentionally sharing false information with the intent to harm 
Ex. Your sister lies that the latest local bill will raises taxes because she knows that’s the only way you won’t support it. 
While disinformation may seem like the worse of the two, it’s frighteningly easy to spread misinformation. Remember the game “telephone” and how it shows that our messages get distorted over time? Every day, we play telephone in our face-to-face conversations, over social media, and more, with important political information. 
How Can You Spot Mis- and Disinformation? 

We’re all susceptible to mis- and disinformation, but the following steps will help you spot it before you take part in its spread: 
  1.  Research the source: Who’s sharing this information? If it’s online, does the website sound familiar or have any political affiliations? If it’s in-person, is this individual a frequent exaggerator, or do they have a job/experience that would give them insider info? 
  2.  Check the date: It’s easy to get incensed over an article on Twitter...only to realize it was published years ago and no longer applies. 
  3.  Cross-check: Are reliable news sources reporting the same information? If not, it’s unlikely that your smaller source just happened to get a super-exclusive, juicy scoop.  
  4.  Read past the headline: You know how tabloids post scandalous headlines and follow them with articles that are relatively mundane? Unfortunately, political outlets do that too. It’s easy to take a snippet out of context to make an article look like it will be more dramatic than it actually is. 
  5.  Question emotionally charged content: Is the person or outlet sharing this information using emotionally manipulative language to get you upset or excited? That’s a red flag. Reliable sources let the facts fuel your response, not emotional language. Check out some examples of loaded language

How to Stop Mis- and Disinformation 

Once you’ve spotted inaccurate information, follow these tips to keep it from spreading (and get it removed): 
  1.  Don’t engage: It may be tempting to comment on an inaccurate Facebook post about how wrong it is, or to click on it to read all of the writer’s claims, but don’t! Every like, click, share, and comment contributes to the piece’s rate of engagement, which tells whatever website you’re on that it’s good content that they should show to more people. Many outlets take advantage of this, posting headlines that they know will have you firing back a response – because good or bad, that response will promote their piece. 
  2.  Share correct information: For every incorrect piece of info you see or hear, try to share one that’s correct. Instead of creating further discourse around something you don’t want people to hear, get people talking about what you do want them to hear. 
  3.  Report when needed: Whenever you see disinformation online, report it to ReportDisinfo.org. You can also report most social media posts to the platforms themselves. 

Interested in learning more about mis- and disinformation? Stay in touch to get updates on our Democracy Truth Project, an effort to advance public understanding of our government and reduce inaccurate information. 

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