RECENT POSTS

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

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

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.

Is It Too Late to Send Your Mail-In Ballot? And If Not, What’s the Postage?

By Polly Stryker

We received a note the other day asking us to make sure that voters know to put the correct postage on their absentee ballots. That’s when someone in the office who lives in San Francisco chirped, “What’s she talking about? There’s no postage required.” A brief few moments of uproar ensued as we thought we were onto some strange untold story about insidious and widespread post office bias on an actual individual level.

But duh — the answer is, of course (and it’s “of course” only once you know) that San Francisco doesn’t require postage on its ballots and the other counties do. The California Secretary of State’s office told us it’s up to each county to require postage or not.

So if you live in San Francisco — just drop it in the mail then buy yourself a low-cost croissant with the savings. But if you live in Alameda County — well, someone here said when she mailed her ballot there, she was worried she hadn’t put enough postage on the oversized envelope.

Dave Macdonald, the Alameda County Registrar of Voters, says that the county has required postage on absentee ballots for a long time, and he was surprised that San Francisco County doesn’t require stamps. Macdonald told us it’s a pretty big expense, since about 409,000 people in his bailiwick have requested vote-by-mail ballots this election.

In most of Alameda County, voters have two or three ballots to fill out, Macdonald says. The cost to mail them is 85 cents. (But in Berkeley, beware — there are four ballots and the postage is $1.50.)

So the big question we had was: will ballots reach the Registrar of Voters if people make a mistake and don’t put the correct postage on? Continue reading

Meet California’s First Majority Asian-American District

by Alice Walton

Before Assembly District 49 in Los Angeles’ San Gabriel Valley was redrawn, a majority Asian-American state legislative district in California had never existed

Ed Chau (Alice Walton/KPCC)

Now, it’s a busy election season in the 49th, which is just east of Los Angeles and includes the cities of Alhambra, San Gabriel and Monterey Park, sometimes referred to as “the first suburban Chinatown.” In these communities, more than half of the residents were born outside of the United States, and three-quarters speak a language other than English.

Kathay Feng, Executive Director of California Common Cause, says the Asian-American community has a long history in the region. “The area has become a gateway for a lot of Asian-American immigrants, and it has been that way for 30, 40 years now, to successive waves….” Continue reading

BART Board Election: Construction Companies Going After Director Lynette Sweet

by Zusha Elinson, The Bay Citizen

Construction companies are pumping tens of thousands of dollars into the race for the Bay Area Rapid Transit board in an effort to unseat incumbent Director Lynette Sweet.

Photo by Thor Swift for The Bay Citizen

The construction firms accuse Sweet of meddling in bids for BART construction work and are backing 25-year-old Zakhary Mallett, who until recently was a UC Berkeley graduate student. Sweet’s backers counter that she is being punished for standing up to BART contractors who shortchange and discriminate against minority subcontractors.

The heated contest underscores a fact that often goes unnoticed by the 400,000 daily BART riders: One of the transit agency’s main functions is handing out billions of dollars in contracts for construction, track repair and new BART cars. This year alone, the transit agency has awarded $2 billion in contracts. The board’s elections and policies often are shaped by contractors who have a financial interest in the outcome. Continue reading

Comfortably Ahead in Polls, Feinstein Looking to Another Term

By Judy Campbell

Senator Dianne Feinstein has held her seat for 20 years, and this fall, she’s running for another six-year term. Feinstein’s got a huge lead in the polls, and she’s a Democrat in a largely Democratic state. But there is a Republican hopeful vying for her seat.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein official photo

It’s dusk in Anaheim, and Elizabeth Emken is at a gala charity event for injured veterans. She’s talking politics, but the conversation also turns to her autistic son Alex. It’s his condition that got her involved in politics.

Emken launched the lobbying arm of the national organization Autism Speaks and helped pass bills that improved insurance coverage for autism. As a candidate for Senate, she supports a small government and low taxes, Arctic drilling and repealing Obamacare.

She doesn’t apologize for her lack of experience in elected office. “We have got to get back to sending people to Washington who understand what families are going through. My husband and I have a mortgage. I’ve got three kids in school. We work for a living.” Continue reading

The 4 Propositions You’re Most Interested In…

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

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

by Lisa Aliferis and Jon Brooks

It’s getting down to the wire — just seven days to make up your mind on a plethora of issues and races … and then ya gotta vote.

Lucky you: We’re here to help.

Our reports about Props. 30 and 38 (education and taxes); the nine-item Prop. 31 (governance) and Prop. 37 (labeling GMO foods) are attracting a lot of attention online. So either we’ve really figured out this SEO thing, or you’re genuinely interested in those initiatives in particular.

Thus, we’re compiling the best-of-the-best of our coverage on these props so that you don’t have to stand in the voting booth pondering whether numerological concerns aren’t going to be the one determining factor after all in how you vote on these things, complex as they are, yet sold, packaged and soundbited by opponents and proponents alike direct to your Id.

So read up!

-Proposition 30 and Proposition 38 both promise to fund schools, but in different ways.

-Proposition 31 will do nine (yes, 9) different things, attempting to overhaul state governance. God knows California governance needs overhaul, but is Prop. 31 the right approach?

-Proposition 37 requires the labeling of genetically modified ingredients in foods.

If you need information on still more props, here’s a bonus:

-Proposition 32 (campaign spending)

 

You can always consult our Proposition Guide for concise information about all 11 props. on the California ballot.