Monthly Archives: April 2012

Launching New Biz in Tough ‘Hood: Is It Government’s Job?

Eskender Aseged of Radio Africa & Kitchen

What’s Government For? That’s the subtext to KQED’s election coverage this year.The question seems to be cropping up everywhere — from the Tea Party’s tax revolt to Occupy Wall Street rallying for the 99 percent. What do we want? What are we willing to pay for? When do we want government to butt out?

They’re questions that can crop up in the most unlikely of places… such as a radio story about an Ethiopian chef’s new restaurant in San Francisco’s Bayview District. Reporter Rachael Myrow describes the way the city of San Francisco helped Chef Eskender Aseged shift from hosting “pop up” food events to opening the doors of his own place, Radio Africa and Kitchen.

Among the funding sources the city used, were redevelopment funds… making this project perhaps the last of its kind, since Gov. Jerry Brown and the state legislature last year ended California’s redevelopment agencies in order to use those funds for other local government needs.

Do you agree with city consultant Andrea Baker, who Myrow quotes below, that cultivating small businesses like Radio Africa and Kitchen is precisely what government is for?

As I explained in a report for KQED News, Aseged couldn’t afford to launch a brick and mortar restaurant on his own, but he could put down about 35 grand. The city, through a variety of agencies, brought roughly $710,000 to the table and built the restaurant from scratch. It’s a street-level commercial anchor to a new condo complex .

Two months in, Aseged is still in a state of shock over his good fortune. This is a man used to making dinner for about 100 people off of two hot plates.

“We have 12 burners, a grill, griddle, salamander, two ovens. It’s kind of like, overkill over here,” he says.

Aseged is expected to source some of his labor locally. The restaurant is serving dinner now, but soon it will open for lunch, featuring a new crop of young line cooks. They’re being trained nearby at the non-profit Old Skool Café, which works with troubled youth.

Even though the five-year-old Muni T has made this stretch of Third easily accessible, the street intimidates pedestrians, much like Geary and mid-Market do.

“It doesn’t feel walkable,” says Andrea Baker, a consultant for San Francisco’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development. “And therein lies the difficulty. Because small businesses tend to rely on foot traffic.”

While sipping a large cappuccino from the Road House Coffee Company at Third and Thomas, Baker says the city might help launch a bakery next – or something Indian. (These days, there are more Asian Americans in Bayview than African Americans.)

“Why is it government’s job? Why isn’t it, I would say!” She laughs. “In our system, people pay taxes in the hope that if we all put a little something into it we can create big things.”

Read more about Radio Africa and Kitchen and the Bayview’s foodie rebirth on KQED’s News Fix blog.

Keeping Tabs on Delegate Counts, the Primary Calendar and Repeated Romney Restarts

A screen grab from

NPR's delegate counter and primary calendar. Do you know how many more delegates Mitt Romney needs?

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney “restarted” his campaign Tuesday night, after sweeping all five state primaries held Tuesday. Wait? Didn’t that happen already? Yes… and no. When Rick Santorum dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination earlier this month, the news angle was very similar to today’s: Romney and Republican strategists can now focus their attention on the real opponent — President Obama. Except today it was Newt Gingrich, not Rick Santorum, acknowledging the mathematical impossibility of his own nomination. Helping the campaign-rebirth metaphor? Romney’s camp, which declared a “new campaign” Tuesday night. So, is this the final Romney restart that voters will experience? That depends… what’s Ron Paul up to?

If you want to get caught up on the surprisingly-entertaining minutiae of delegate counts or primaries, NPR has a primary calendar that let’s you do just that. I could keep writing about it but you can simply click here to visit the real thing.

Death and Taxes: Heading to the November Ballot

It’s an old adage: Nothing is certain but death and taxes. And Gov. Jerry Brown revived it today as he made some remarks about measures making their way to the November ballot.

A measure that would abolish the death penalty in California and replace it with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole qualified for the ballot yesterday. Secretary of State Debra Bowen certified that the initiative petition had garnered the necessary half million valid signatures so California voters will get to weigh in on Nov. 6. One key backer is former director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Jeanne Woodford. As warden at San Quentin Prison she oversaw several executions, but has become a vocal opponent of capital punishment. Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley has emerged as a strong voice against the ballot measure and in favor of the death penalty.

Brown wouldn’t take a stand on the ballot measure just now, but he vetoed death penalty legislation back in 1977, and today said it was a “good thing” Californians will get to vote on it this year.

Brown is also pushing his measure to raise taxes — sales taxes on all of us and income taxes on the wealthy — to generate more revenue for the state budget. The campaign to qualify that measure is in high gear, in a race to collect more than 800,000 signatures next month.

On death and taxes, Stephen Colbert gets the last word.

Immigration a Trouble Spot for Romney, GOP

MItt Romney and Mark Rubio speak to the media.

Republican presidential candidate Gov. Mitt Romney speaks to the media before a campaign stop with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in Aston, Pennsylvania. Photos: Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images

Don Gonyea reported on Monday’s Morning Edition on the difficult position Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney finds himself in regarding immigration. That position is only exacerbated by the fact that the Republican party has an admittedly spotty record when it comes to courting — and keeping — Latino voters.

At a Republican candidates’ forum in Wisconsin before the state’s primary earlier this month, a speaker who wasn’t on the ballot had strong words for the GOP regarding its low standing among Hispanic voters.

“The way the party … talks about immigration is going to impact the future course of this party and the future course of this nation,” said former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the first Hispanic to hold the nation’s highest law enforcement post.

Gonzales didn’t mention any candidate by name, but during the Republican primaries, none staked out a tougher position on immigration than former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

“Of course we build a fence, and of course we do not give in-state tuition credits to people who come here illegally,” Romney said at a debate in Tampa last year. “That only attracts people to come here and take advantage of America’s great beneficence.”
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‘Are You Better Off?’: Both Parties Invoke Reagan

Former President Ronald Reagan in 1982.

Former President Ronald Reagan in 1982. Photo: Michael Evans/The White House/Getty Images.

NPR’s It’s All Politics blog warns us that “Are you better off?” will be a phrase we hear a lot of until November. Why? Well it’s a phrase that was invoked by Ronald Reagan in a 1980 debate against Jimmy Carter and well, invoking Reagan’s legacy amidst a struggling economy seems like a pretty smart move for Mitt Romney. So voters — get ready to consider whether life is better after four years of the Obama administration. Who knows — maybe Romney will even have a Reagan hologram ask the question during a rally.

But It’s All Politics predicts that Obama’s campaign will put their spin on the question as well:

So while Romney’s argument will be that the president doesn’t deserve a second term because too many people aren’t better off, Obama is essentially trying to frame the former Massachusetts governor’s candidacy as, for all practical purposes, a potential third term for Bush, with all the bad vibes that carries for many voters.

Read the full It’s All Politics post here.

Tell Me What You Want, What You Really, Really Want

A line of people.

KQED wants YOU!

During planning meetings for KQED’s upcoming election coverage a few questions repeatedly presented themselves as being at the heart of the nation’s, and particularly California’s, present ruminations: What do people want from their government?

So we’re asking you — what’s government for, and most importantly, what life experiences led to those beliefs?

Are you a small business owner struggling under regulations? Did you grow up a child of a civil servant? Have you ever been on public assistance? Did you immigrate from a country with another government system entirely?

We’re hoping to collect reflections from across the state for KQED’s Perspectives series. Want to share your two cents? Simply click here to share your insight or you can fill out the form below:

Test Your Political IQ

Street signs

The Pew Research Center has devised a quiz to let you test your political knowledge. Photo: Getty Images

What makes a Democrat a Democrat? A Republican a Republican? And what do you know about the political stances of the two major parties?

The Pew Research Center has devised a quiz to let you test your knowledge. Check it out.

Which party wants to reduce the size of government? Which party wants to raise taxes on the rich? What’s Nancy Pelosi’s party? John Boehner’s?

If you get all the answers right, you’ll be in good company with … a whopping 8 percent of the American public. The Pew center recently issued a report, “What the Public Knows about the Political Parties,” based on a national survey.

The report found that Republicans scored better than Democrats (Independents fared worst). Why? Older and better educated people scored better (no big surprise) and, nationwide, Republicans tend to be older and more affluent, thus likely to have more education. Continue reading

What Would Jesus Do… About America’s Struggling Economy?

An illustration of Jesus

Would Jesus be in favor of big government? Photo: Getty Images

What’s the role of government in helping people cope with a difficult economy? This election year, conservative and liberal Christians are debating… should Americans, through our government, take care of “the least of these”… or does the Bible suggest we should cut taxes and get government out of the way?

What would Jesus do? What (in short) is government for, in the eyes of Christian voters? NPR’s Barbara Bradley Haggerty explored the question on Morning Edition.

What would Jesus do with the U.S. economy?

That’s a matter of fierce debate among Christians — with conservatives promoting a small-government Jesus and liberals seeing Jesus as an advocate for the poor.

After the House passed its budget last month, liberal religious leaders said the Republican plan, which lowered taxes and cut services to the poor, was an affront to the Gospel — and particularly Jesus’ command to care for the poor.

Not so, says Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee. He told Christian Broadcasting Network last week that it was his Catholic faith that helped shape the budget plan. In his view, the Catholic principle of subsidiarity suggests the government should have little role in helping the poor.

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Forum: Santorum Drops Out

Rick Santorum Attends Caucus Night Event

Rick Santorum has suspended his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. Photo: Getty Images

The following article and quotes are based on the April 11 episode of Forum.

By Don Clyde

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum suspended his presidential campaign Tuesday, effectively handing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney a lock on the Republican nomination to run against Barack Obama.

Santorum was in a distant second place, but had won 11 primaries, more than many experts expected.

He pulled out of the race citing concerns over his young daughter who is experiencing health problems due to a genetic disorder.

But many analysts say polling data showed Santorum faced uphill battles in many primaries, including his home state of Pennsylvania. He recently experienced big primary losses in Maryland and Wisconsin.

Los Angeles Times political writer Mark Barabak speculated that Santorum might have pulled out of the race to consider a more opportune chance in the future.

“I think Rick Santorum must have, at least as part of his calculation, been looking down the road and thinking that ‘I’m a pretty young fellow — 53-years-old. If Mitt Romney were to lose, I’m surely going to be positioned as the front-runner,’” Barabak said.

But how will Romney shift his campaign strategy now that the staunchly conservative Santorum has exited the race?

Some say that to seal up more potential votes, Romney will need to slide more to the political center and focus on the economy and jobs. This might distance himself from deeply polarizing social-conservative issues like contraception, abortion rights and same-sex marriage.
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