Author Archives: kqednews

Who Were the Big Winners and Losers in Frenzied Spending on State Initiatives?

By Lance Williams, California Watch

Molly Munger donated $44.1 million to pass Proposition 38, a measure to raise taxes for public education. The initiative failed.

Multimillionaire activists, big labor unions and major corporations combined to pump more than $363 million into political fights over 11 propositions on Tuesday’s state ballot, a California Watch analysis shows.

Prop. 38 backer Molly Munger. (neontommy/flickr)

Prop. 38 backer Molly Munger. (neontommy/flickr)

That’s about $20 in political spending for each of California’s 18.2 million registered voters.By law, state ballot initiatives are exempt from the tough donation limits that otherwise apply in California elections.

In contests over proposed tax increases, car insurance rates, criminal justice reforms and political spending by labor unions, donors with deep pockets took full advantage.

Forty-seven donors – individuals, companies and political committees – donated more than $1 million apiece on initiative campaigns, a review of campaign finance data provided by MapLight.org shows.

Seven donors each gave $11 million or more.

The unprecedented spending spree was a sign of just how far the 101-year-old California initiative process has strayed from its origins. In the beginning, initiatives were a Progressive-era reform devised to allow ordinary citizens to sidestep a legislative process controlled by monied special interests. Continue reading

San Francisco Voters Say ‘No’ to Study Draining Hetch Hetchy

By Lauren Sommer

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir occupies Hetch Hetchy Valley behind O'Shaughnessy Dam. (Photo: Andrew Alden)

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir occupies Hetch Hetchy Valley behind O'Shaughnessy Dam. (Photo: Andrew Alden)

Voters in San Francisco say they are not ready to consider draining the city’s Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park, for environmental restoration. The idea was rejected last night by more than a three-to-one margin.

Authors of Measure F stressed that a “yes” vote was to order a study of the future of Hetch Hetchy, not a vote to drain it. But San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee opposed it right away.

“I called it stupid,” the Mayor recalled. “I still think it is.”

Senator Dianne Feinstein and business groups also joined the opposition. But supporters say their goal was just to open the debate.

“I do think the voters are open to our message,” said Mike Marshall, director of Restore Hetch Hetchy, the group that put the measure on the ballot. “We’re very excited by the results and that sounds awkward given that we’ve lost but in fact it’s really, really true.” Measure F was defeated 77-23 percent.

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How Young Voters Can Surprise You

San Francisco State University student Dariel Maxwell discusses the election with KQED's Lillian Mongeau. Photo by Ian Hill/KQED.

by Ian Hill and Lillian Mongeau

“I don’t know much about the candidates.” “I haven’t been following the races.”  “I’m not really able to talk about the election.”

Typically, those were the responses we first heard when we approached students on Bay Area college campuses for the “Voices of Young Voters” project where we interviewed potential voters between the ages of 18 and 29 about politics, the election and the role of government in their lives.

When students told us they hadn’t been following the election, we pushed them a little bit. We said we wanted to hear from a variety of students, not just those with an interest in politics.

That’s when they would often surprise us.

We found that many of the 50 students we interviewed were well-informed on the challenges facing the country. They had educated opinions on topics ranging from healthcare to youth obesity to immigration, and they were passionate about many issues. Even those who insisted they “knew nothing” about the election had clearly spent time thinking about what they thought the government should and shouldn’t be doing. Continue reading

Study: Soda Tax Would Boost Health of Blacks, Latinos

By Christina Jewett, Bay Citizen

(Tessek: Flickr)

(Tessek: Flickr)

A tax on soda would carry the greatest health benefits for black and Latino Californians, who face the highest risks of diabetes and heart disease, according to recent research findings.

The study found that if a penny-per-ounce tax was applied to soda, cuts in consumption would result in an 8 percent decline in diabetes cases among blacks and Latinos. The statewide reduction in new diabetes cases is projected at 3 to 5.6 percent, according to researchers from UC San Francisco, Columbia University and Oregon State University, who released their findings at last week’s American Public Health Association annual meeting in San Francisco.

The study was unveiled as a sugar-sweetened beverage tax faces votes in El Monte, in Los Angeles County, and Richmond, in the Bay Area. A statewide excise tax was proposed but died in the California Legislature in 2010.

The statewide reduction in new diabetes cases is projected at 3 to 5.6 percent.

Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, said he has visited Richmond to urge support for the measure. He said he heard residents speak of loved ones who’ve been affected by diabetes complications — such as limb amputations and blindness — during a recent town hall meeting at a Richmond church.

Goldstein said residents of both cities, though, face the pressure of nearly $3 million in spending by the beverage industry, which opposes the measures. Continue reading

California Congressional Races Changed by Top Two Primaries

Congress (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

It may have seemed like this campaign season would never end, but we can now safely report that it will — on Tuesday night. And unlike past elections where voters chose between one Democrat and one Republican, eight congressional races in California are choices between two candidates of the same party. That’s because of California’s new top two primary system.

California Report host Scott Shafer looks at these races with reporters Tara Siler from KQED in San Francisco, Steven Cuevas who reports from the Inland Empire for KPCC and The California Report’s election editor Tyche Hendricks.

Scott Shafer, Host: One thing is certain for the first time in memory about a dozen Congressional races in California are actually, well, competitive, up in the air, or even toss ups. We’re going to take a look now at some of them, starting in Northern California and working our way south. Reporter Tara Siler is covering the 7th Congressional District, the suburbs of Sacramento and beyond. Incumbent Republican Dan Lungren fighting for his life there, it’s a rematch from the 2010 election against a Democrat physician Ami Bera. So Tara, tell us what makes this race so interesting.

Tara Siler: Well, what makes it interesting is you have a four-term Republican, conservative Republican, who is fighting for his life. And he’s up against Ami Bera for the second time. And this district has changed; it’s more Democratic under redistricting. And Democrats really see an opportunity here to pick off a conservative Republican, and an incumbent at that. It’s attracted a lot of money, $8 million dollars in outside money. It’s one of the most expensive races in the country. And a lot of it is being thrown at Lundgren by these outside groups.
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Cash Influx Makes Oakland School Board Races Competitive

by Lillian Mongeau

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Mary Prime-Lawrence canvasses East Oakland voters for GO. (Lillian Mongeau/KQED)

The role of money in politics is a big issue in many elections this year – including the race for four seats on the Oakland Schools Board of Education.

A local non-profit, the teachers’ union, and the board candidates themselves are expected to spend more than $300,000 on seats that have been uncontested in more than half the races since 2004.

Mary Prime-Lawrence is a dozen doors into her list of registered voters on 88th Avenue in East Oakland. She’s standing in the dark hallway of a rundown fourplex. Most people haven’t been home, so she smiles when the deadbolt slides open.

“Hi there. Is Michelle Logan in? Are you Michelle? She’s not here right now? Can I leave some information for her? If you can give her that. James Harris is running for school board. We hope she can give him her support November 6,” Prime-Lawrence asks.

After 40 minutes, Prime-Lawrence has met only two of the voters she’s looking for. The low numbers haven’t dampened her conviction that this is the right way to spend her Saturday morning.

“In Oakland if you are un- or under-educated, you are more likely to get pregnant, get someone pregnant. Be involved in gangs, in drugs, in violence. It’s a life and death issue for some people, for some children,” she says.
Continue reading

Poll: Death Penalty Repeal Gains Ground

The ballot measure to repeal California’s death penalty and replace it with life without parole appears to be gaining ground, according to the latest Field Poll.

For the first time, supporters of Proposition 34 outnumber opponents, 45 percent to 38 percent.

But a fairly large portion, 17 percent, are undecided.

Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo says voters seem persuaded by the argument that the death penalty is more expensive than life in prison.

“Back in 1989, voters by a 2-1 margin felt that it was cheaper to implement the death penalty than to house somebody in prison for life,” he said. “Now, more voters — by a 5-3 margin — think its actually cheaper to house prisoners for life.”

The Field Poll shows support is strongest in the Bay Area.

More coverage on Proposition 34 here.

Protest at Charles Munger’s House Over Anti-Prop 30 Donations

Demonstrators chanted outside the home of multi-millionaire Charles Munger, Jr. Thursday afternoon in one of Palo Alto’s most exclusive neighborhoods, protesting Munger’s $35 million in donations to fight Governor Brown’s tax measure, Proposition 30. Munger is the leading funder of the opposition to the initiative, which would raise taxes temporarily in order to avoid big trigger cuts in this year’s state budget.

San Leandro resident Patrick Jerome Forte came with the California Alliance for Retired Americans and said, “That’s not how the elections are done in California. You can’t buy our vote. You can not influence us to vote the way you want us to. Take your money back!”

Munger chairs the Santa Clara County Republican Party of Silicon Valley. He was not home during the protest.

A recent Field poll showed support for Prop 30 had slipped below 50 percent, which it needs to exceed in order for it to pass. But 14 percent of voters still remain undecided, and Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo told KQED that a majority of undecideds approve of the governor’s job performance and are concerned about potential budget cuts if the measure fails. “All these things indicate to me that the governor’s measure is in fairly decent shape,” DiCamillo said.

Charles Munger’s sister, Molly Munger, has contributed $44 million to a rival tax measure, Proposition 38. That initiative is trailing badly in polls.

Poll Shows Support For Brown Tax Measure Falls Below 50%; Undecideds Now the Key

A new Field Poll out today shows that Governor Brown’s tax increase measure, Proposition 30, has dropped below the 50 percent it needs to pass. The poll shows 48 percent of voters in support and 38 percent opposed, with 14 percent undecided.

Teachers at Angeles Mesa Elementary School in Los Angeles review voter information on Proposition 38 during a recent teacher union meeting. (Ana Tintocalis: KQED)

Teachers at Angeles Mesa Elementary School in Los Angeles review voter information on Proposition 38 during a teacher union meeting. (Ana Tintocalis/KQED)

Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo says Proposition 38, a rival tax measure put on the ballot by education advocate Molly Munger, has drawn off some of Prop 30’s support. “Prop 38 is pulling some voters away from 30,” he told Capital Public Radio’s Ben Adler. “We’re measuring it at 9 percent.” Despite that switch, support for Prop 38 was measured at just 34 percent, down 12 percent from July.

DiCamillo said there is still hope for Brown’s measure, as undecided voters could be more likely to vote yes in the end. DiCamillo cited the survey’s finding that a majority of undecideds approve of the governor’s job performance and are concerned about potential budget cuts if the measure fails.

“So all these things indicate to me that the governor’s measure is in fairly decent shape,” DiCamillo said.

More on Prop 30 vs Prop 38….

In Richmond, Volunteers Inform Ex-Cons About Voting Rights; Read Voting Guide For Current or Former Inmates

The presidential candidates are making a final push to let supporters know every vote counts in Tuesday’s election. Richmond voting advocates are on a similar mission, targeting the area’s infrequent voters. To that end, volunteers with various non-profits have been canvassing Richmond for weeks, and Rachel Witte with KQED News Associate Richmond Confidential reports that part of the effort is focused on ex-convicts.

“These formerly incarcerated men are going out into these neighborhoods and telling other formerly incarcerated men who don’t know that they are able to vote, that they can indeed vote,” she says.”And that they should go out and exercise that right if they truly want to exercise change in their community.”

California law restores voting rights to felons who have served their time and completed parole. Still, many ex-offenders don’t know their rights and don’t vote.

Read the full story on Richmond Confidential.