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Last week, a truck plunged off the Coronado Bridge, killing four people and injuring nine others in Chicano Park.
The tragic crash has sent state Sen. Ben Hueso into a frenzy looking for potential funding sources to make safety improvements to the bridge. One of those sources, Hueso says, is Measure A, a half-cent sales tax the San Diego Association of Governments says would raise $18.2 billion over 40 years for transportation, infrastructure and open space projects.
Hueso said he had been looking into the measure before and liked what he saw, but the crash pushed him to endorse it.
“I was leaning in favor, but a lot of these initiatives, you really have to vet them thoroughly,” Hueso said. “But when that accident happened, it tipped it for me that these funds could help with those problems involved in the bridge.”
Roughly 24 percent of the funds raised by the measure would go to individual cities. According to SANDAG’s 40-year projections, that would be about $36.1 million to Coronado and $1.8 billion to San Diego.
Either of those cities could use that money to improve the bridge, Hueso said.
“Improving the safety of that bridge is going to be one of my biggest priorities of the year,” Hueso said. “My experience with working with governments and infrastructure projects is that usually one source of funding isn’t enough. Measure A can be one of those tools that can help us solve a lot of problems with the bridge.”
Hueso specifically wants to make sure cars and people are prevented from going over the bridge. In whatever scenario a car gets out of control – whether it be fueled by alcohol, a medical episode, a suicide attempt or road rage – cars shouldn’t be able to go over the bridge, he said.
“The people whose lives were lost were not using the bridge,” Hueso said. “The fact is the car came off the bridge. That’s my biggest concern.”
– Maya Srikrishnan
Prop. 57 and the Meaning of ‘Nonviolent’
Proposition 57 can’t seem to shake Brock Turner.
The statewide ballot measure would grant early parole consideration to certain nonviolent felons, allow inmates who engage in rehabilitative programs to earn good-time credits and give judges discretion over whether juveniles should be tried as adults.
Debate over the measure has hinged on the term “nonviolent.”
Prop. 57’s authors purposely didn’t define it, leaving it up to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to come up with guidelines if the measure passes. But Prop. 57 opponents have nonetheless focused on the section of California penal code that defines violent crimes — the theory being that anything not on that list would be a nonviolent crime under Prop. 57.
Not among the violent crimes: sexually assaulting an unconscious person. It’s what Turner, a former Stanford athlete, was convicted of in June and given a six-month jail sentence, prompting significant backlash.
A few weeks after Turner’s sentencing, CalWatchdog predicted the case could sink Prop. 57 and seemed to prod the California District Attorney’s Association — the group leading the No on 57 campaign — to make more of it:
“The Proposition 57 debate seems likely to eventually merge with the debate over the fairness of Brock Turner’s sentence and whether sexual assault laws should be made much tougher. So far, at least, leaders of the California District Attorneys Association have hesitated to make an explicit connection between the two matters.”
Legislators did, post-Turner, pass a last-minute bill requiring a mandatory minimum prison sentence for anyone convicted of sexual assault of an unconscious person. Brown signed the bill into law. But will those folks be eligible for early parole consideration?
Short answer: highly unlikely. CDCR in 2014 implemented a new parole process that allows early parole consideration for certain nonviolent offenders. But the process excludes anyone convicted of a sexual offense.
At a panel last week, San Diego city attorney candidate Robert Hickey said he’s against Prop. 57 because it could mean early parole for those convicted of sexual assault of an unconscious person. Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a chair of the No on 57 campaign, dodged a recent question about the veracity of claims about early parole for sex offenders.
“Child molesters, rapists, human traffickers who commit sex acts, and other registered sex offenders will be INELIGIBLE for parole under Prop. 57,” Dan Newman, a Prop. 57 spokesperson, said via email. “They are already excluded from parole consideration in a federal court order the state has implemented for the past two years.”
The No on 57 campaign has a long list of other crimes that it argues will be eligible for early parole, like firing a weapon in a drive-by shooting, discharging a firearm on school grounds and domestic violence involving trauma.
Newman said that anyone convicted of a crime involving the infliction of bodily injury or using a firearm would also be ineligible for early parole.
– Kelly Davis
Prop. 58 Backer: Bilingual Ed and Academic Success Aren’t Mutually Exclusive
Patricia Gándara, co-director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, has been studying bilingual education for more than a decade. She’s a supporter of Prop. 58, the statewide ballot measure that would make it easier for schools to offer bilingual education programs.
In a Q-and-A with Mario Koran this week, Gándara points out what she says are major flaws in Prop. 58 opponents’ arguments.
The Union-Tribune, for example, recently urged folks to vote against Prop. 58 because graduation rates have risen since the measure passed – meaning the system must be working.
That’s a fundamental misunderstanding, says Gándara, for two reasons: One, there was only a small number of students in bilingual programs prior to 1998, when a law limiting bilingual ed passed, so they couldn’t possibly account for the grad rate jump. Plus, the state also happened to start tracking academic progress in new ways around 1998, and holding schools more accountable.
Gándara also said she’d like to work with the state Legislature to help grow the ranks of bilingual teachers.
State Aims to Put More Affordable Housing in Wealthy Areas
Funding for low-income housing is hard to come by in California.
One of the most widely utilized sources to fund affordable housing projects has been the federal low-income tax-credit program. The program is administered by each state and provides either 9 percent or 4 percent tax credits to help finance affordable housing developments.
The state agency that handles those incentives is proposing some big changes to the program, including a new rule meant to spur more affordable housing development in wealthier neighborhoods.
People who can’t afford to live in a good neighborhood experience all kinds of consequences – they’re often forced to send their kids to lower-performing schools, they commute farther to work and they’re more likely to experience both violence and heightened police activity.
These neighborhood issues often disproportionately impact minorities.
The proposed changes would make it difficult for the 9 percent tax credits to be used for developments in lower-opportunity neighborhoods. It’s meant to urge developers who want the credit to build in better neighborhoods.
Laura Nunn, policy director at the San Diego Housing Federation, said the change could be problematic in practice.
“It’s a form of redlining in those low-opportunity communities, not allowing that form of investment there,” Nunn said.
“The change represents a drastic and sweeping elimination of entire communities to have the opportunity for investments that are well-known to have transformative effects of improving communities and local quality of life,” reads a Housing Federation policy memo on the change.
The rule, if implemented, could also hinder one tool aimed at preventing people from getting pushed out of gentrifying neighborhoods.
Investing in low-income housing before a neighborhood is gentrified can help keep residents there even as new people and businesses move in.
The Housing Federation also had issues with the mapping tool the state used to determine which neighborhoods were high-income and low-income. The tool, for example, shows an area in coastal La Jolla as low-opportunity and shows Chollas Creek as a high-opportunity area.
Nunn said there needs to be wider policy changes to encourage low-income housing in higher-income areas, such as laws that lower barriers to building, she said.
“We understand and support what they’re trying to do, but the proposal they put forward doesn’t make it easier to put housing in high-opportunity areas,” Nunn said. “It takes resources away from low-opportunity areas.”
– Maya Srikrishnan
Golden State News
• Elon Musk’s vision for a supersonic train that runs from Los Angeles to San Francisco has hit a few bumps. (New York)
• This piece explaining the two plastic bag measures on the ballot, Props. 65 and 67, is exquisitely written. (CalMatters)
• The L.A. Times profiles Michael Weinstein, the highly controversial activist behind two measures on the California ballot – one that would require condoms in porn, and one that seeks to lower drug prices.
• A portion of Jay-Z’s War on Drugs video is being used by the Yes on 64 campaign, which seeks to legalize marijuana.
• Several Californians made the list for consideration as Hillary Clinton’s VP pick. (Sacramento Bee)