In San Jose, Voters Ponder Raising Minimum Wage by 25 Percent

Aerial view of downtown San Jose.

Aerial view of downtown San Jose. (Helene Labriet-Gross/AFP/Getty Images)

What started as a San Jose State University class project has morphed into a real politics. In November, San Jose voters will vote on Measure D [PDF] — which would raise the minimum wage from $8 an hour to $10 an hour.

Both sides claim their arguments are simple. If you think $8 an hour is not a livable wage in San Jose, then you should vote yes. If you think hiking the minimum wage by 25 percent would cost jobs, then vote no.

But like most things in life and politics, nothing is really that simple, as evidenced by the Measure D debate on KQED’s Forum Wednesday morning. One of the main arguments against Measure D is that it would make San Jose an island of higher minimum wage and would put San Jose businesses at a competitive disadvantage. Continue reading

SF Seeks Poll Workers for Nov. 6 Election

Voters vote at a polling station February 5, 2008 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

(Bay City News) Poll workers are needed in San Francisco for the presidential election in November, according to the city’s Department of Elections.

The department is seeking more than 2,500 workers to handle duties for the Nov. 6 election. The workers will operate polling places on election day and help voters navigate the voting process.

A training course must be completed prior to the election, and workers will be paid between $125 and $170 for the one-day assignment.

Applicants must be at least 18 years old and be U.S. citizens who are registered to vote in California.

Anyone interested can apply online at or call the Department of Elections’ poll worker division at (415) 554-4395.

Could a Filipino-American Finally Take a Seat in the California Legislature?

By Jason Margolis

You probably wouldn’t be surprised that Chinese-Americans are the largest group of Asian-Americans in the state. But the second largest group might be harder for you to name. It’s Filipinos.

Despite their numbers, Filipino-Americans haven’t achieved much success in the halls of political power. Filipinos have been elected in local elections throughout the state, and California’s Chief Justice, Tani Cantil-Sakauye, is of Filipino descent. But there’s never been a Filipino-American in the state legislature in Sacramento.

Jennifer Ong at a Buddhist Temple in Fremont. She is running for State Assembly. (Photo: Jason Margolis)

But in November, Philippine-born Californians are on the ballot in two San Francisco Bay Area districts. Jennifer Ong is one of those two, although initially she seems a surprising candidate to make history for Filipinos in California. She has worked as an optometrist for years and has never held elected office. She only decided to run for the state legislature when people in the local Asian immigrant community asked her to do it.

“So my reason for running is purely obligation,” Ong says. “Coming here from the Philippines with very little — when we came here, we actually shared one bedroom, seven of us — and being able to buy my own practice 31 years later, graduating from a very good public school, I think it’s an opportunity I wouldn’t have had — even in another state.” Continue reading

In San Jose, Once a Class Project, Now a Major Political Battle

by Peter Jon Shuler

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What was once just a class project has taken on a life of its own, with business and labor lining up against each other in campaigns run by seasoned professionals.

As we reported Tuesday, San Jose voters will decide in November on a minimum wage measure that  started as a student class project at San Jose State University. Measure D would raise wages from $8.00 an hour to $10.00 and is gaining support from a growing coalition that includes labor unions and non-profit organizations like Catholic Charities and United Way.  Business groups, on the other hand, have said they plan to spend more than a million dollars in opposition.

Albert Perez, Diana Crumedy and Saul Gomez, students who started San Jose minimum wage measure. (Peter Jon Shuler/KQED)

Last January, San Jose State students taking a class on social action kicked off the petition drive for the measure, after being the first to sign. They had just spent nearly a year fundraising, conducting public opinion polls and going out into the community to gather support. And within just five weeks, they collected more than enough valid signatures to qualify the measure for San Jose’s November ballot.

Sociology professor Scott-Myers Lipton designed the class to help students make the leap from merely thinking and talking about issues to engaging in the political process.

“Our culture doesn’t do a great job in asking our students much more than this idea of voting,” he says. “And so how do we impact social policy? That’s not a question they’re familiar with or I think that the students feel they can actually have a say in.”

Myers-Lipton says instead of feeling helpless or railing against social problems, his students identify the issues that concern them then learn concrete ways to take action. This class developed the minimum wage measure based on their own struggles to get by on $8.00 an hour. Continue reading

San Jose’s Measure D Would Raise City’s Minimum Wage 25%

By Peter Jon Shuler/KQED News

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In November, San Jose residents will vote on whether or not to become one of the few cities in the nation to raise its minimum wage above the state level. If approved, Measure D would raise the city’s minimum wage from the state floor of $8.00 an hour to $10.00. San Francisco has a similar ordinance on the books, currently mandating hourly pay of at least $10.24.

The roots of the initiative go back to San Jose State University students, who were struggling to make ends meet. Elisha St. Laurent is a behavioral science major and the single mom of a 5-year-old boy. She expects to graduate next June.

Alisha St. Laurent(left) signs a petition from Leila McCab (right) to raise San Jose's minimum wage at San Jose State. Photo by Peter Jon Shuler/KQED News

“I work at an electronics store and we make minimum wage there. So it’s definitely not an easy thing being a part-time employee and then a full-time student,” she says.

But many businesses have lined up against the measure, and opponents say they’re ready to spend more than a million dollars to defeat it.

That campaign has brought together some surprising allies. John Hogan is CEO of TeenForce, a non-profit group that helps foster-youth and other minors acquire work experience. So you might think he’d be in favor of raising their pay.

“Yeah, it’s probably ironic that I’m running a youth jobs program and I might be against this — which I am,” he says.

Hogan calls Measure D the wrong solution to a real problem. Although he thinks the minimum wage should be higher, he doesn’t believe it should be a a city-by-city decision. And he says it will create more obstacles for the kids his organization helps. Continue reading

Primary’s Lesson: Every Vote Counts

Primary Voters in California

Flickr/Old Man Lee

Two weeks after the June 5 primary, county elections officers are still hard at work counting ballots. There are still more than 300,000 absentee and provisional ballots yet to be processed around California. And lots of races hinge on those votes.

For starters: the fate of Proposition 29, the state tobacco tax hike. Support for the measure still lags, but the gap is narrowing. As of late Tuesday afternoon, the “Yes” votes were 17,571 behind the “No” votes. That’s a tiny fraction of the five million votes cast. And the margin against Prop. 29 has been shrinking steadily.  On June 12, it was 28,000, down from 63,000 votes the day after the election. And 337,977 ballots are still to be counted.

In addition, five congressional races and ten state assembly races are too close to call… with margins of less than two percent between the second and third vote-getters (only the top two will advance to the Nov. 6 general election).

In Congressional District 2, which stretches from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border, Democrat Norman Solomon trails Republican Daniel Roberts by 1,241 votes. The winner will face off against Democrat Jared Huffman in November.

In Congressional District 8, in the sparsely populated region east of the Sierras, three Republicans and one Democrat are all within about 900 votes of each other. The candidate currently in third place is just 215 votes shy of second place.

In Congressional District 21 which runs from south of Fresno down to Bakersfield, Democrat Blong Xiong trails Democrat John Hernandez by 492 votes. The winner will face Republican David Valadao.

In Congressional District 38, in Los Angeles County, Republican Jorge Robles is 632 votes behind Republican Benjamin Campos in a fight to take on Democratic incumbent Linda Sanchez.

And in Congressional District 52, in San Diego County, Democrat Lori Saldana is just 713 votes behind Democrat Scott Peters in a race to take on incumbent Republican Brian Bilbray.

In all those races, there are still thousands, if not tens of thousands, of ballots still being tallied.

The moral of the story? Your vote COUNTS!

Two thirds of California’s registered voters didn’t make it to the polls on June 5. But just a few hundred more votes in any of these close races could have swung the outcome. By voting — or staying home — you’ve had an impact on the election.

Statewide Election Results

California voters said 'yes' to new term-limit laws. Photo: David Paul Morris/Getty Images

Prop. 28 Wins Big

California voters want their state lawmakers to spend more time in one legislative house or the other and less time in office overall.  Californians passed — in a big way — Prop. 28 — which tweaks the state’s term limits law.

Proposition 28 limits lawmakers to 12 years, two shorter than under the current system, but lets them spend all that time in one house or the other.

Lawmakers are now limited to eight years — two terms in the State Senate, and six years — three terms in the Assembly.

The good government groups that sponsored the measure argued the new system should give lawmakers more time to learn their jobs.

“What Prop. 28 lets legislators do is stop jumping immediately into a campaign for their next office, as soon as they’re elected. It lets them take time to gain the expertise to become proficient at both the issues and how to work in the legislature,” Trudy Schafer, Program Director with the League of Women Voters, said.
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Low Voter Turnout, But an Election Worth Watching

A stack of voter stickers.

Voter turnout was low, but this was an election of firsts in California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

While some may call this primary election a snoozer, this is actually a rather fascinating, if not historic, election. A new top-two primary system is being tested statewide for the first time, redistricting has pitted longtime colleagues against one another, and a cigarette tax and term limit propositions are on the ballot.

The California Report hosted a live primary night special.

We recommend having a listen, but if you can’t spare an hour, here are some highlights:


“In some ways we we’re redistricting about 20 years worth because the last couple of redistrictings had really been incumbent protection districts.”

“That was a problematic district from the previous redistricting…Congressman Berman’s district, when his brother, who did the line drawing, drew those districts, they very specifically set out to carve, to basically pick voters for the congressman and the district did really not make sense.”

— Maria Blanco, former member of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission and vice president of civic engagement for the California Community Foundation on the ‘Battle of Ermans’ in the San Fernando Valley.

More on Berman v. Sherman:

“It’s just gonna wear everybody out. Because we know they’re going to face each other again in November. Essentially what they’re doing today, is trying to tell donors that they are pretty likely to win”

“It essentially brings the Republicans alive a little bit in a Democratic district [because] they’re potentially the balance of power in there.”

“Berman especially has been trying to get endorsements from Republicans…. Sherman could turn around in November and say ‘I’m a little bit more independent. Look, they haven’t all endorsed me so if you want someone to be a pain in the neck for the big party people, I’m your guy.'”

— Raphe Sonenshein, executive director of the Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles

Top-Two Primary:

“The top two shakes up everybody’s way of thinking of running for office in California.”

“It’s the end of third parties in California.”

“This really strikes me as the world as designed by Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

“If you look at the redistricting commission, the top two, all of these things were meant to create more moderate candidates who are not tied to the two parties. Now, poor Arnold, didn’t do much on the budget, but his legacy may end up being some quirky rules that allow quirky people to get in who don’t necessarily have to follow the pledges of either party.”

— Raphe Sonenshein

“There are two sets of dynamics you are seeing in the top-two primary, one is the safe party district where you have this slug fest within the party and the other is this phenomena where you have essentially a three-person race — its sorts out as a Democrat, a Republican and some version of a moderate –either a moderate Democrat, a moderate Republican, decline-to-state voter or some version of that.”

— Corey Cook, director of the Leo McCarthy Center at the University of San Francisco

“You’re really looking at the refurbishing of the Republican party against its will.”

— Raphe Sonenshein

Around the State:

“This is an example where we may possibly have an Independent versus a Republican and no Democrat on the November ballot, and that would be a first.

— Sasha Khokha, KQED Central Valley Bureau Chief on Stanislaus County’s District 10 race between Chad Condit v. Jose Hernandez v. Congressman Jeff Denham

“If you’re anti-war and pro-marijuana you probably represent the views of a lot of voters.”

— Mina Kim, on the 12 candidates vying to win Lynn Woolsey’s seat in the liberal Northbay  District 2.



Pete Stark Battles To Hold His Congressional Seat

Eric Swalwell

Eric Swalwell, an Alameda County prosecutor and Dublin City Councilman is running against longtime congressman Pete Stark. Photo: Cy Musiker/KQED

By Cy Musiker

The June primary is providing a rare sighting for California vote-watchers: competitive congressional elections.

New districts drawn by a citizen panel and the new “top-two” primary have shaken up the status quo for incumbents. Those include Congressman Pete Stark, representing parts of the East Bay and suburbs. He’s California’s senior Congressmember, with 40 years in office.

Stark, who is 80 years old, says he works hard to take care of constituents. Just ask him about his accomplishments. “It’s just been a historic record of bringing great advantages to the East Bay,” he says.

Those include billions of dollars in stimulus funds, and tens of millions for teachers’ jobs and to improve schools.

And Stark says he helped draft and pass Obama’s health care measure, using his clout as a senior member of a House health care subcommittee.

If voters send him back to Washington, Stark says, constituents can expect him to continue to protect Medicare and Social Security from what he calls the Republican onslaught. “Which wants to turn it into a voucher system, that would bring about Newt Gingrich’s idea of letting it wither on the vine.”

That performance and agenda has guaranteed Stark re-election by big margins for nearly all his 40 years in office.

But this year Stark is vulnerable for the first time in decades because of a series of gaffes, the state’s new top-two primary, a new, more moderate district, and an ambitious Democratic challenger. He’s Eric Swalwell, an Alameda County prosecutor and Dublin City Councilman. Swalwell recently told a small group of Castro Valley residents that when he decided to run, he had in his favor that he knows the area.

10th Congressional District Puts the Top-Two Primary to Test

The race to represent the 10th Congressional District is proving to be a good test for California's new top-two primary system. Photo: Jefferson Beavers

By Sasha Khokha

One test of California’s new top-two primary system will come in Stanislaus County’s 10th Congressional District. That primary comes down to a fight between the son of a disgraced Congressman and a farmworker-turned-astronaut.

You’ve got to admit, Jose Hernandez has a pretty compelling story: a migrant farmworker who starts out picking tomatoes and cucumbers, and ends up soaring into outer space as an astronaut.

And Hernandez is eager to zip up his royal blue flight suit and share that story. In a crowded gymnasium at a Modesto elementary school, he plays a DVD of his mission to the international space station.

And Hernandez tells them he made it to space because of advice from his Dad:

“He said, ‘The same effort you put in picking cucumbers out in the fields, that same work ethic, you put it in your books and getting good grades, and guess what, you’re going to be able to reach your dream.'”

But today, families here face double-digit unemployment, and some of the highest foreclosure rates in the country.

“I was talking to those parents, and they were losing faith that their kids could achieve that American dream, and that scared me,” said Hernandez.
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