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Turning ‘Purple’ — The Inland Empire’s Shifting Voter Demographics

By Steven Cuevas, KPCC Radio

Mark Takano (D), newly elected representative from the 41st Congressional District in the Inland Empire. (MarkTakano.com)

Mark Takano (D), newly elected representative from the 41st Congressional District in the Inland Empire. (MarkTakano.com)

California’s Congressional delegation will include about a dozen new faces next year. Redistricting and the state’s “Top Two” primary system led to an unusual number of competitive races, as well as a few upsets — and Democrats are the beneficiaries.

Of the state’s 53 Congressional districts, 34 are currently represented by Democrats. With Tuesday’s voting, at least one more seat will turn blue, while three other races still appear too close to call.

For starters, parts of the Inland Empire are looking a lot more purple — with areas once seen as Republican strongholds giving way to a wave of Democratic newcomers.

Early on election night, Mark Takano wasn’t yet ready to claim victory as returns showed him ahead of his Republican opponent in the newly drawn 41st Congressional District. “So let’s be patient,” he said, “luxuriate in the feeling we have now and be hopeful that change has come to Riverside.” Continue reading

ACLU, EFF Challenge Human Trafficking Proposition in Court

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(AP and KQED) The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging California’s new voter-approved law to boost penalties for those convicted of human trafficking and increased monitoring of sex offenders.

Voters approved Proposition 35 on Tuesday with 81 percent of the vote.

In its lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, the ACLU and the EFF argue that a provision of the measure restricts the First Amendment rights of registered sex offenders.

The initiative requires all registered sex offenders in California to provide the police with their email addresses, user names and Internet service providers. Continue reading

Is California About to Become a Democratic Wonderland?

California Democrats have ample reason to smile. Their party appears to be on the way to gaining a supermajority in both legislative houses — the first time for either party party since 1933, and a tax increase the governor has made the centerpiece of his plan to stave off further budget cuts looks to be on its way to passing as well.

Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at L.A. City Hall on the state budget earlier this year. (Kevork Djansezian: Getty Images)

Gov. Jerry Brown, a big winner yesterday, at LA City Hall earlier this year. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

“Everything that the Democrats did is historic,” John Myers told KQED’s Forum with Michael Krasny on Wednesday. “The governor did something that did not happen the last eight times someone [tried] to raise taxes on a statewide ballot. Last night he got a tax increase, almost I would call a general tax increase, though it was supposedly earmarked for schools.

“If these numbers hold, it’s a very fascinating dynamic for Democrats in California and for a Democratic governor here in Sacramento.”

Democrats might think the word “fascinating” an understatement. After all, doesn’t a supermajority mean they can push through tax increases without the help of intransigent Republicans? (Proposition 13 requires tax hikes to be passed by a two-thirds majority of both houses, and Republicans have shown no willingness to play ball.) 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.

Continue reading

Gov. Brown’s Proposition 30 Passes by Solid Margin, Will Fund Schools

California Gov. Jerry Brown during a rally on Monday in support of Proposition 30. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

California voters soundly passed Proposition 30, 54 to 46 percent. Many considered it the biggest measure on this California ballot.

Gov. Jerry Brown crisscrossed the state in recent weeks making his pitch, supported by union leaders, teachers and others keen to avoid the “trigger cuts” that would have hit had Prop. 30 failed. But even before the final count was in, the governor was in a buoyant mood at the Yes on 30 election night party in downtown Sacramento.

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Gov. Brown had a lot on the line with Prop 30. It imposes a temporary 1/4-cent sales tax and raises income taxes on the wealthy for seven years.

The failure of Prop. 30 would have triggered $6 billion in education cuts. And the governor staked his reputation on the measure, making it his top priority. Continue reading

Anti-DREAM Act Candidate Reveals He Entered U.S. Illegally As Child

Pedro Rios, Republican candidate for 32nd Assembly District.

Pedro Rios, Republican candidate for 32nd Assembly District. (Pedro Rios for State Assembly)

Thirty years ago, Pedro Rios was smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico by his uncle. Today he is a citizen and a Republican candidate for the 32nd Assembly District, which includes part of Bakersfield and an area to the north of the Central Valley city.

In between, Rios benefitted from President Reagan’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a 1986 law which provided a path to citizenship for people who had entered the country illegally. Rios became a citizen in 1996.

But these details were not public until late October. While his Democratic opponent, Bakersfield City Councilman Rudy Salas says he won’t make an issue of Rios’ prior undocumented status, people are taking issue with Rios’ refusal to back President Obama’s DREAM Act, a policy to allow young people who have come to the U.S. illegally to apply for legal residency.

Jose Gaspar, a columnist with the Bakersfield Californian talked to Candi Easter, chair of the Democratic Party of Kern County:

“I think it’s honorable that Rios came here undocumented and became a citizen,” Easter added. “But what I find dishonorable is his opposition to the DREAM Act,” she said. The DREAM Act is proposed federal legislation that would grant a path to citizenship for qualified undocumented youth in this country. And in fact, Rios admits he is against the legislation, saying he wants comprehensive immigration reform instead. Continue reading

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

Food Companies Fight ‘Genetically Modified’ Label Measure

GMO soybeans. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

by Will Evans, California Watch

The companies that make those candy bars leftover from Halloween don’t want Californians to be spooked by scary tales of “Frankenfoods.”

The Hershey Co., Nestlé USA and Mars Inc. – makers of such trick-or-treat favorites as Butterfinger, Kit Kat and Snickers bars – gave a combined $367,000 last month to oppose Proposition 37, which would require labeling of genetically modified foods. They are just a few of the major food and biotechnology companies that have poured more than $44 million into the fight against Prop. 37, Continue reading

‘The Dog Ate My Ballot,’ and Other Reasons Some Don’t Head to the Polls

If you want to sport this sticker, you'll have to decipher the state ballot and then vote. (EVA HAMBACH/AFP/Getty Images)

Photo by Eva Hambach/AFP/Getty Images

The California Report host Rachael Myrow speaks with Jenny Wagner, President of the League of Women Voters for California, a non-partisan, non-profit group that works to encourage civic participation. Ms. Wagner discusses research the League has done on voter participation or lack-thereof.

Edited transcript…

Rachael Myrow: So, what about people who don’t vote, or don’t even register to vote? Studies consistently show that public radio listeners are more likely as a group to vote, so I know my question is rhetorical. You found many excuses serve as a kind of cover for substantive concerns about the process, or their participation in it. Let’s run down some of the concerns, and you can translate for us as we go.

Rachael Myrow: If someone says, “I don’t like the choices,” how do you interpret that?

Jenny Wagner: Well, when people say they don’t like their choices, they often don’t understand what their choices are. They need more information about their options.

Rachael Myrow: How about when someone says, “My vote won’t count”?

Jenny Wagner: That’s a common one. It’s really that they feel that their opinion doesn’t matter, that they aren’t empowered.

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.