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It’s been almost exactly a year since California voters passed Prop. 47, a measure aimed at reducing the prison population by bumping certain nonviolent crimes down to misdemeanors.

For its first birthday, Prop. 47 is getting the gift of scrutiny.

The Washington Post kicked things off a couple weeks ago with a piece about how the measure is working in San Diego. It follows a homeless man who has many brushes with the law, and uses his story to make the case that keeping people out of jail doesn’t necessarily mean keeping them from causing more trouble.

That angered many local folks who wondered why only law enforcement perspectives – Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman and City Attorney Jan Goldsmith make appearances – were featured. Indeed, former San Diego Police Chief Bill Lansdowne, who played a key role in passing the measure, wrote a letter to the editor questioning the article: “Our failing state and federal justice systems call out for reform, but these changes will work only if law enforcement adjusts effectively and if we adequately invest in prevention.”

Lauren Alexander of the local chapter of the ACLU also expressed frustration about the Post article: “The article tries to blame Prop. 47 for increasing crime, while failing to note that in San Diego, the focus of the article, crime rates are largely unchanged from last year – and some indicators have even fallen,” she told me in an email.

Caroline Ridout Stewart, a social worker, argued in an op-ed for us that local law enforcement has been causing more problems than it has contributed to finding solutions: “State and local leaders need to respect the will of the voters and get behind implementation reforms rather than fight against them at the cost of community health and safety.”

The L.A. Times editorial board has also waded into law enforcement’s reaction to Prop. 47:

The gist of the reaction against Proposition 47 is that we as a society simply have no choice but to make possession of drugs and petty theft into felonies punishable by more than a year in prison if we want to control more serious crime. Similar warnings were issued about the consequences of modifying the three-strikes law, yet recidivism among strikers released from prison after voters adopted Proposition 36 is astonishingly low. And similar arguments were made against redirecting some felons from state prison and state parole to county jail and county probation, yet crime rates after realignment continued to fall.

That caught the attention of City Councilman Todd Gloria, who has requested that the Council’s public safety committee discuss Prop. 47 issues at an upcoming meeting.

And it looks like the SANDAG board will also be examining how Prop. 47 has impacted the San Diego region soon.

Water Fights

There are at least two battles going on in Sacramento right now over water rules.

One is over the extension of the emergency regulations, which require urban water customers to use 25 percent less water. These are supposed to expire in February.

Whether or not it rains much this winter, those restrictions are almost certain to be expanded into next spring. Even a strong El Niño is unlikely to end the drought. The state has pretty broad powers to do what it wants with those regulations, within reason, including further rationing.

The second battle is over what happens when the drought ends. Gov. Jerry Brown has already said he wants to make conservation a way of life in the state. Others, including water officials in San Diego, believe water agencies that can buy their way out of a drought – by building desalination plants, for instance – should be able to avoid any state-imposed belt-tightening.

So, our officials have been an active member of the fray questioning any new long-term water limits, in part because the region has more water than it can sell, and local water agencies want to sell that water.

State bureaucrats are beginning discussions about what they can do at the executive level over the long-term, but you can expect some local officials to try to push the fight into the Legislature, where they may have more sway.

Ry Rivard

Gonzalez to NBA: You’re Next

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez passed AB 202 earlier this year, which requires pro sports teams in the state to extend workplace protections to cheerleaders. The measure inspired a similar effort in New York.

This week, Gonzalez and two New York legislators sent a warning to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver: We’re coming for you.

Just kidding, legislators don’t really say things that directly. What they really said is that they want to see what NBA cheerleaders are making and proof that they’re not being exploited:

“[W]e write to you requesting clarification of the employment status of dancers for all 30 teams including but not limited to: the terms and conditions of their contracts, work agreements, requirements, and benefits. With more lawmakers taking note of the wage theft lawsuits against the NFL, it is important that current policies be reviewed to prevent the issue of wage theft from becoming widespread among the sports industry. We ask that this information be made public.”

The Endorsement Scorecard

Endorsements have loomed large so far in the state Senate race between Assemblywoman Toni Atkins and Sen. Marty Block. Atkins rolled out a long list of endorsements from former women legislators early on, and last week we told you about her camp’s “mildly shady gambit” in trying to lock up the blessing of other Dem groups across town by packing those groups with supporters.

LGBT Weekly describes how the San Diego Democrats for Equality endorsement – which was bestowed on Atkins – went down this weekend:

The first forum was to feature Atkins and State Sen. Marty Block, candidates for State Senate in the 39th District. Due to duties in Sacramento, Block was unable to attend, and had a staff member read an endorsement letter from openly gay State Sen. Mark Leno. Atkins used her statements and responses to discuss her deep roots with the club and city and to rattle off a list of accomplishments. A motion to delay the endorsement vote until Block could be present failed, and Atkins won well more than the 60 percent of votes necessary for endorsement on the first ballot.

The U-T’s Logan Jenkins has more color from another one of these battles for a small-group endorsement (Block won this one):

For one night, a political club with relatively few members, low profile and near-zero clout was transformed into a fiery straw poll pitting incumbent state Sen. Marty Block against Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins.

Atkins also got a nod from Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday:

I’m very proud to announce that I’m endorsing my friend @toniatkins in her race for California’s 39th Senate District.

— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) October 29, 2015

• Attorney General Kamala Harris, who’s running for Senate, scored a big win over Rep. Loretta Sanchez with the endorsement of La Opinion. The editorial calls Sanchez a worthy candidate, but makes no mention of Oceanside Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, a Latino who is also running.

What Happens When Police Collect Data

San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s bill requiring police agencies across the state to collect racial data on who they pull over goes into effect Jan. 1.

Law enforcement groups are livid over the bill, and yes, I will take every opportunity to resurrect this quote from one officer who told the L.A. Times: “There is no racial profiling. There just isn’t.”

Two sobering pieces of journalism published this week tell a different tale. The New York Times parsed numbers from North Carolina, the state that keeps the most detailed data.

In Greensboro, N.C.:

officers pulled over African-American drivers for traffic violations at a rate far out of proportion with their share of the local driving population. They used their discretion to search black drivers or their cars more than twice as often as white motorists — even though they found drugs and weapons significantly more often when the driver was white.

Officers were more likely to stop black drivers for no discernible reason. And they were more likely to use force if the driver was black, even when they did not encounter physical resistance.

The Washington Post took a deeper look at the other handful of states that collect data:

As you can see, the Connecticut State Police searched blacks 2.6 times as often as whites; the Rhode Island State Police searched blacks 2.5 times as often; the Illinois State Police searched twice as often; and the North Carolina State Police searched 1.5 times as often. In Chicago, blacks were searched more than five times as often as whites.

But all that extra scrutiny doesn’t seem to be turning up any more illegal stuff. In Connecticut, Illinois and North Carolina, police found contraband less often when they searched black people than white people. In Chicago, for example, blacks were 30 percent less likely to be found with any illegal goods. State police officers from Rhode Island were the exception; they were more likely to search black drivers, but they also more likely to find contraband.

Meanwhile, the White House offered an update this week on its initiative to make more data on police interactions with their communities open to the public. It notes that the California Department of Justice is the first state agency to participate, and “will work with law enforcement agencies across California to adopt open data policies, and will also provide tools and resources to help them better utilize their data to inform and improve policy.” (Disclosure: My husband works for the Cal DOJ.)

Pumping the Brakes on Motor Voter

For a while, the national media was falling all over itself to high-five California for passing Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez’s New Motor Voter Act, which will automatically register citizens to vote through the DMV.

But California writers are starting to bring people back down to Earth a bit on the bill. “It may not be fully in place until the 2018 elections at the very latest,” notes the Orange County Register.

And Dan Walters says the law won’t be the boon Democrats think it will: “Even if the 6 million-plus new registered voters that Democratic politicians envision eventually do materialize, that doesn’t mean they will actually vote.”

Golden State News

 Texas Gov. Greg Abbott didn’t take the news well that California leads Texas in requests to purchase new guns.

 Assemblywoman Toni Atkins gives a rundown of the bills the Assembly passed this session that provide opportunities for immigrants. (Huffington Post)

 Remember those creepy cardboard cutouts that popped up on the Capitol steps earlier this year – in which all the lawmakers had the same outfits and the same bodies? The Rancho Santa Fe resident behind them is taking things up a notch: He’s collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that would force legislators to wear stickers or badges listing their biggest campaign donors. (Sacramento Bee)

 Assemblyman Brian Jones spoke to the Washington Times about his opposition to a new law that requires so-called crisis pregnancy centers to provide information about abortion services.

 A new report finds that political candidates in California are overwhelmingly white men, though our candidate pool is still more diverse than most states. (Inside Bay Area)

 An analysis finds the big bullet train project is probably going to blow through budgets and deadlines. (L.A. Times)

 Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is a Democrat who is definitely running for governor; Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearingen is a Republican who is maybe running for governor. They wrote an op-ed together for the Union-Tribune about leveraging technology to create jobs. The Sacramento Bee has some thoughts about what that might mean.

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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