Author Archives: kqednews

Locals React to Anti-Soda Tax Campaign in Richmond

By Andrew Stelzer

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(Rex Sorgatz: Flickr)

(Rex Sorgatz: Flickr)

From the get-go, the face of Richmond’s proposed tax on sugar sweetened beverages has been city Councilmember Jeff Ritterman. “If we’re successful we’ll make history,” he tells me.

Ritterman is a retired cardiologist who got the council to put the penny-per-ounce tax on next month’s ballot. He says improving the health of the local community isn’t the only goal.

“Once the sugar-sweetened beverage taxes become ubiquitous — and I’m pretty sure they will, it’s just a question of when,” he says, “if we are victorious it will happen a lot sooner.”

But the health issues behind the tax have taken a back seat to questions about how the city will spend the money the tax would raise.

The main argument from Measure N opponents is that the tax proceeds won’t necessarily go to fight obesity. While there is an accompanying measure before voters to direct the money to obesity-fighting efforts, the money raised would go into the city’s general fund. Billboards and flyers all over town — paid for by the American Beverage Association, a soft drink lobbying group — drive that “general fund” message home.

Continue reading

Mystery $11 Million Campaign Donation May Lead to Formal Investigation

By Julie Small, Polly Stryker and Lisa Aliferis

(Jupiter Images)

(Jupiter Images)

Later today the agency that enforces California’s election laws is expected to decide whether to investigate a mysterious $11 million campaign donation from out of state. It’s unclear why the Arizona group — Americans for Responsible Leadership — contributed the whopping sum to weigh in on propositions in California. The money went to the Small Business Action Committee which is campaigning on two fronts: fighting to defeat the Gov. Brown backed Proposition 30 tax initiative that would fund education; and to pass Proposition 32 which would ban payroll deductions for political donations.

The potential investigation concerns whether the original, anonymous donors were making a donation to a general pool — or specifically to fund Prop. 30 or 32 campaigns.

Federal law permits anonymity for some types of donors in national races … But California law is different.

The Committee’s spokeswoman Beth Miller insists there’s “nothing untoward” about the donation. “We don’t know who contributed to Americans for Responsible Leadership,” Miller said. “What we do know is that they are a bonafide organization.”

But Gov. Brown doesn’t buy that. “It’s completely clear that the ‘No on 30′ committee has some knowledge of who these people are,” he said. “They didn’t just pick an envelope out of their mailbox with 11 million it.” Continue reading

San Francisco Propositions, Local Races

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Downtown San Francisco (Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images)

Below is an edited transcript.

HOST CY MUSIKER: Over the next few weeks, we will be talking about local elections, including races in Oakland and Berkeley, plus partial taxes and school bonds around the Bay. Today we are looking at the most critical races in San Francisco and we are talking to Corey Cook. He directs the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good at the University of San Francisco. And Corey, let’s start with a couple of propositions on the ballot, the highest profile involves the Hetch Hetchy reservoir in Yosemite Park and no pun intended because it’s around 4,000 feet. Measure F requires the city to study how to drain Hetch Hetchy and replace it as a source of hydropower and water for more than two million people living in San Francisco, the Peninsula and the East Bay.

COREY COOK: Right. In sum, it is a fairly small initiative and it all it does is fund a $8 million study and on one hand, it is really a small scale. On the other hand, the plan is then put on the ballot in San Francisco, an initiative that would ultimately drain Hetch Hetchy, which as you know, it would affect 2.5 million people, it would be enormously costly and as a result you really see this. Every member of the Board of Supervisors and the mayor united in opposition to this measure.

MUSIKER: Mayor Ed Lee and others are backing a Measure E. That is the next measure we are going to talk about. That would convert the city’s chief business tax from one taxing payroll size to one taxing business receipts. And that’s getting a rare consensus again of everybody on the supervisors but also labor and business, progressives and conservatives, why is that?

COOK: Well, in this case, yes, everybody is basically on the “yes” side and for three reasons. One is that the existing payroll tax has been called a job killer because, effectively, it taxes hiring. It taxes payroll. So as the tax on payroll, it’s been unpopular for business, it’s been unpopular for supervisors and with the Mayor certainly for a long time. But it is revenue positive and so certainly, labor is in favor and some of the more progressive voices in the city are happy because it de-rate $28.5 million annually, and it exempts small businesses. So it serves something for everybody. This is this grand compromise that did unite these different fractions in San Francisco. Continue reading

Another Fallout From the Foreclosure Crisis: Voting

By Rachel Dornhelm

In South Merced, foreclosure hit this neighborhood hard. All but two homes have been foreclosed upon, a neighbor says. Hook ups in this empty lot mark where another home was never built. (Photo: Rachel Dornhelm)

All but two homes in this South Merced neighborhood have been foreclosed on, a neighbor says. Hook ups in this empty lot mark where another home was never built. (Photo: Rachel Dornhelm)

At a suburban development in South Merced, sidewalks and electrical hook ups are signs that houses were to be built here. At one of the first full blocks of homes, I knock and Dina Gonzalez opens the door. She runs an in-home day care, her bright personality matches the center’s primary colored walls.

But stepping outside she grows more somber. Gonzalez points at a row of neat stucco houses and says that nearly all of them have been foreclosed on.

“Just me and the person at the end is the ones that kinda saved our home,” Gonzalez says. “But back there, the other line, most of these three lines, most of the people is new. … Across the street this family lost their house, and she lost her job, too. So she couldn’t afford — not even rent an apartment. So they didn’t have no choice. They were looking, living in shelters on the street by the train.

Losing a house had an effect on voting as strong as poverty or a lack of education.

Gonzalez says she was lucky and got a loan modification. But she’s seen other home day-care providers fold, as families lost jobs and moved away. In the midst of all the upheaval, Gonzalez could see voting was the last thing on people’s minds.

“A lot of the parents and a lot of people in the community start feeling discouraged. They didn’t feel trust in the economy and the system, and it’s kinda hard to be picking up and feeling trust in the White House.” Continue reading

New Breed of Campaigns Using Technology to Micro-Target Voters

by Aarti Shahani

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As election day inches closer, campaign workers are entering high gear with door-knocking and phone-banking. This year, they’re also reducing paper cuts by using new digital technologies to reach voters. But the true value of the latest election apps, of course, will turn on whether they get out the vote.

East Bay congressional candidate Eric Swalwell, whose campaign is using the latest get-out-the-vote-technology

East Bay congressional candidate Eric Swalwell, whose campaign is using the latest get-out-the-vote-technology. Photo: Cy Musiker/KQED

Door Knocking Goes Digital

Ariel Kelley, a local campaign director with a group working for San Francisco supervisorial candidate David Lee, is sipping coffee at a neighborhood cafe in the city’s Richmond district. Tapping the floor with her 3-inch heels, Kelley watches her door-knocking team from a website on her MacBook.

“I get to see in real time exactly where they are, using the GPS on the cell phone that they’re holding. This is Charlie’s territory right here,” she says, referring to a volunteer out in the field.

Kelley is monitoring Charlie’s every move on Anza and Balboa. She sees the name, age and party of the targeted voter, plus the exact time – down to the microsecond – of the visit. Kelley sees the encounter is over when a green dot turns into a red check mark. Continue reading

In Central Valley, Organizers Aim For Untapped Latino Vote

By Alice Daniel

Daniela Simunovic, an organizer for Communities for a New California, works with Edgar Acevedo and another young canvasser to get out the vote in Sanger, CA. (Photo: Alice Daniel)

Daniela Simunovic, an organizer for Communities for a New California, works with Edgar Acevedo and another young canvasser to get out the vote in the central valley town of Sanger. (Photo: Alice Daniel)

Daniela Simunovic is an organizer for the non-profit group Communities for a New California. She’s advising students who are about to walk a neighborhood to register voters.

“What are you going to do if somebody says they don’t want to vote?” she asks her students.

“Ask them why not?” comes a reply.

“In a friendly tone, of course,” says one of the students.

These canvassers are working in the small Central Valley town of Sanger, where only half of the 12,000 potential Latino voters are registered. And even those who are registered aren’t voting. Just 1,200 Latino voters — out of those 12,000 potentials — cast a ballot in the 2010 election. While Latino voters have become an integral part of California politics, participation lags across the Valley.

More than 250,000 eligible Latino voters in the San Joaquin Valley have not registered

“If we were able to mobilize all the voters, we would really be able to change some outcomes in some elections on the issues that are important for our communities,” Simunovic says.

Those issues, she believes, include propositions on the November ballot. That’s why Communities for a New California is also conducting a fall campaign to inform Latino voters on propositions it feels are key to their interests, starting with labor rights and education. Continue reading

Prop. 36: No Life Sentence for ’3rd Strike’ if Nonviolent

By Michael Montgomery

This story was co-reported by Monica Lam in collaboration with the Center for Investigative Reporting 

(Monica Lam: CIR)

Members of a San Quentin self-help group for three-strikers meet with reporter Michael Montgomery. Most say they are here for non-violent crimes. (Monica Lam: CIR)

Some 26 states have passed “three strikes” laws, which impose long prison terms for repeat offenders. But only in California can prosecutors seek a life sentence, even if the third strike is for a relatively minor felony, like drug possession. That could change, if voters approve Proposition 36 on the ballot this November.

In 1997 Norman Williams was sent to state prison for a 25-to-life sentence. His crime: stealing a jack from a tow truck in Long Beach. Because Williams had two previous burglary convictions, he was swept up by California’s three strikes law. Williams was sent to a maximum-security lockup alongside murderers, rapists and other violent criminals.

“I never wanted to do my whole life in prison. Nobody wants to be caged like that,” says Williams.

“We want to remove the worst offenders from society for the sake of our communities, and we want to do it no matter what it costs.”

But thanks to the help of an attorney and some Stanford Law School students, Williams got out. On a recent day, I met him in front of a halfway house in San Jose, where he directs cleaning crews for a program that provides work for ex-offenders. Williams says cleaning, especially floors, is the only thing he learned while locked up. Continue reading

What’s at Stake for Obama’s Health Care Law in California This Election?

Photo by Gabriela Quiros, KQED Science

On KQED Public Radio’s The California Report Magazine on Friday, Scott Shafer talked with Marian Mulkey, the director of the Health Reform and Public Programs Initiative at the California HealthCare Foundation, a health-policy think tank (and a funder of the show).

Edited transcript:

SCOTT SHAFER: First of all, the Affordable Care Act has gradually been getting phased in nationwide. Give us a sense of what’s been happening up to now, right here in California.

MARIAN MULKEY, CALIFORNIA HEALTHCARE FOUNDATION: California has implemented many of the early provisions of the Affordable Care Act, making some new extensions of coverage available, for example, to young adults, assuring that pre-existing conditions are covered for children, and implementing many of the early programs — one for people with pre-existing conditions is in place and covering people already.

California has taken steps in terms of planning and establishing a state-based exchange, which is the marketplace by which people will be able to view their choices, identify what’s available for them and access federal subsidy support for buying coverage.

SHAFER: And it’s fair to say California has been further out in front on that than pretty much any other state?

MULKEY: Yes, California was early in determining it wanted to have a state-based exchange and moved quickly, immediately after the passage of the law in 2010 to start one up and to make some initial decisions. Continue reading

Los Angeles Measure B: Mandating Condom Use in Adult Films

By Stephanie O’Neill

The city of Los Angeles passed a condom requirement for adult film performers earlier this year. Measure B would expand the requirement to the entire county. (Shawn Latta: Flickr)

The city of Los Angeles passed a condom requirement for adult film performers earlier this year. Measure B would expand the requirement to the entire county. (Shawn Latta: Flickr)

The City of Los Angeles garnered worldwide attention earlier this year when it became the nation’s first city to require male adult film actors to wear condoms while performing.

But the landmark law only applies to film shoots that require a city permit and does not include adult films shot in studios.

Now voters will determine if the requirements should be expanded to all of Los Angeles County. Measure B would direct the Los Angeles County Health Department to enforce broader condom requirements at all adult film shoots countywide, studios included.

The AIDS Health Care Foundation backed the city ordinance and is now behind Measure B. They say both the city ordinance and the county measure are intended to save lives.

“You really can’t argue that people who go to work at a job really ought to be putting their health at risk,” says Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Health Care Foundation. “We put a thing at the conclusion of a film saying ‘no animal was hurt in the making of this film.’ We can’t say that about these films when it comes to people, real life people.” Continue reading

Arguments For, Against Prop 37′s GMO Labeling Requirement

Most of the corn in the U.S. is grown from genetically engineered seeds. (fishhawk: Flickr)

Most of the corn in the U.S. is grown from genetically engineered seeds. (fishhawk: Flickr)

One California proposition that is getting nationwide attention is Proposition 37. It requires labeling on raw or processed food that’s made from certain genetically engineered materials. It also prohibits calling any foods “natural” on the packaging — if those foods are made with genetically modified organisms (GMO). Supporters say consumers have a right to this information. Opponents say the measure is misleading and full of loopholes.

The California Report’s Scott Shafer talked with science reporter Amy Standen on Thursday about Prop. 37. Here’s an edited transcript of their discussion:

SCOTT SHAFER: Let’s begin with a background question. How are genetically modified foods used right now; how prevalent are they?

AMY STANDEN: Very prevalent. In fact, pretty much everything you’ll find in the middle of the supermarket — everything from sodas to crackers to cereals to cookies — almost all of those foods contain genetically modified ingredients. That’s because most of the corn, soy and a lot of the rice grown in the U.S. is grown from genetically modified seeds.

SHAFER: And what does that mean? How are they engineered and why? Continue reading