A November ballot measure is putting San Diego’s mayor and district attorney — both Republicans and frequent allies — at odds.
Last week, Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced he will lead the statewide campaign to oppose the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016, or Prop. 57. Also last week, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, currently the only district attorney in California who supports the measure, was in Sacramento, meeting with the secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation about how to address issues raised by Prop. 57’s opponents.
The measure seeks to do three things:
• Grant a parole hearing to nonviolent felons who’ve served the full sentence for their primary offense
• Offer sentence credit to inmates who engage in rehabilitative and educational programs
• Allow judges to decide whether a juvenile should be tried as an adult. (Currently district attorneys make that decision.)
Gov. Jerry Brown introduced the measure in January, arguing that the state needs to further reduce its prison population in order to comply with a federal court order.
A key issue for opponents is who qualifies for an early parole hearing. The measure says only nonviolent offenders are eligible, but, as opponents have pointed out, “nonviolent” isn’t what voters might assume. Rather, it’s any crime not listed under 667.5(c) of the California penal code, which lays out which crimes are considered violent offenses. So, while someone who commits rape “by means of force, violence, duress, menace, or fear” wouldn’t be eligible for early parole, a rapist who drugs his victim would. Setting fire to an inhabited property = ineligible for early parole. Arson of an uninhabited property = eligible.
Dumanis was out of town this week and unavailable for an interview, but a spokeswoman provided a statement in which Dumanis says she’s supporting Prop. 57 in order “to have a seat at the table … to address law enforcement’s concerns.”
The statement says that last week, Dumanis met with CDCR Secretary Scott Kernan to discuss how Prop. 57 defines “nonviolent offense” and what criteria the parole board would use to determine who’s eligible for release.
“I understand and respect the concerns some have voiced about this public safety initiative,” the statement says. “Nothing is perfect and there are clearly some issues and language that need to be addressed.”
The fact that the parole board has final say over who gets released is something opponents have downplayed; at a press conference last week, Faulconer described Prop. 57 as an “early release” program. At a hearing on the measure last month, state Sen. Mark Leno, a supporter, emphasized that the bill doesn’t guarantee anyone parole.
“To suggest any presumption that they will be paroled is, I think, a far step,” Leno said. “I don’t want to overlook the fact that this is just about eligibility and there will be a consideration by the [parole board] of all the facts.”
Indeed, the state parole board doesn’t grant release lightly. According to CDCR, out of 5,300 inmates up for parole in 2015, only 902, or 17 percent, were released.
— Kelly Davis
• Another San Diego voice in favor of Prop. 57 is Bishop Cornelius Bowser, who wrote in a VOSD op-ed this week that Faulconer’s stance against the measure has more to do with politics than policy.
A Grab Bag of Policies
Thanks to the City Council’s OK this week, San Diego is about to become one of 150 cities in California with a plastic bag ban on the books. The state, too, has banned plastic bags.
Yet, plastic bags are still everywhere. That’s because the statewide ban was put on hold after the plastic industry collected enough signatures to put a measure on the ballot that would overturn the ban.
“If that effort is successful, municipal bans — including San Diego’s — would remain in place,” writes the U-T.
But because this is 2016, and a statewide measure plus more than a hundred citywide policies isn’t enough, there is another plastic bag initiative on the ballot as well.
On top of funding the effort to overturn the bag ban, the plastic bag industry also funded a separate measure, Prop. 65, which would “require stores to deposit their bag sale proceeds into a special fund administered by the Wildlife Conservation Board,” according to the L.A. Times.
If that measure passes and the overall plastic bag ban is overturned, it would become a factor in San Diego, whose citywide ban would still be in place.
I know, it’s confusing. Basically, San Diego will likely have a plastic bag ban whether voters uphold a statewide ban or not. It might also have restrictions on where fees from reusable bags must go.
The National Scene
The California delegates to the Republican National Convention have been the talk of Cleveland – because many of them were caught up in a terrible norovirus outbreak.
As the Union-Tribune reported this week, at least two of Trump’s delegates run a San Diego political group that believes homosexuality can be cured. That fits in with the Republican Party platform approved at the convention this week, which includes support for conversion therapy for gay minors.
Golden State News
• Scientists are trying to clone California’s sequoias and redwoods, hopeful that doing so would help combat climate change. (AP)
• A San Diego-area businessman is leading an effort to overturn six gun-control laws. (L.A. Times)
• CalMatters is the latest outlet to examine the bulging November ballot. (Or, as we’ve been calling it, the Bananas Ballot.) Their story focuses on why reforms meant to prevent exactly this scenario haven’t started working yet.
• Joe Matthews breaks down some divergent views — from Blink-182 and “Finding Dory,” to name a few — about how California is doing. (Zocalo Public Square)
• Thanks to Kim and Kanye, the world got a lesson this week in California’s two-party consent law for recordings. (Guardian)