Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s bill to reform the troubled CalGang database, AB 90, took a step forward this week.

It passed out of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, along with three of her other bills.

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At Weber’s request, the state auditor did an extensive probe of the gang database, which law enforcement officers use to identify gang members. The audit was scathing – it found widespread errors and abuse of the system by police.

De’Andre Brooks, a documented gang member who grew up in the Stockton neighborhood of San Diego, testified during the hearing that inclusion in the database had a severe impact on his life.

Brooks was arrested coming off the trolley for a beating that he said took place at the station before he arrived. Because he was in the gang database, the judge in that case saw him “not as an individual, not as a young man, not as a person with a life, with a family, but as a gang member.”

Brooks also quoted data showing that in San Diego, blacks and Latinos appear in the database at vastly higher rates than their share of the population.

“Data shows us time and time again there are stark and painful racial disparities in who ends up on this list,” he said.

On top of Weber’s bill, there is a competing measure, SB 505 written by Sen. Tony Mendoza, that also seeks to reform the database and how it’s used and accessed by law enforcement.

Both bills would take oversight of the database out of the hands of the CalGang Executive Board. Both would require periodic audits.

But there are crucial differences.

Weber’s bill would give oversight control of CalGang to the state Department of Justice; Mendoza’s would create a new entity made up largely of law enforcement officials. That worries Marissa Montes, co-director of the Immigrant Justice Clinic at Loyola Law School, who testified this week in support of Weber’s bill.

“My concern is that (the oversight group) is primarily law enforcement-focused. The audit proves that law enforcement doesn’t have the ability to administer the CalGang database and hold itself accountable,” she told me.

Mendoza’s bill would prevent CalGang data from being shared with federal immigration authorities. Weber’s would go a step further and forbid the data from being shared with any federal agency.

The San Diego district attorney’s office supports Mendoza’s bill; it does not support Weber’s, said Tanya Sierra, a spokeswoman for the office.

The state umbrella group for district attorneys spoke against Weber’s bill at the hearing.

“We don’t dispute the suggestion that reform and better oversight of the CalGangs system is necessary. …. Unfortunately, AB 90 goes, in our view, too far beyond the recommendations provided by the state auditor,” a spokesman for California District Attorneys Association said.

 Another bill under consideration in the Legislature would make it harder to discipline police officers accused of lying. (L.A. Times)

Gloria Bills Take on Middle-Income Housing, Homeless Youth

San Diego’s Democratic Assemblyman Todd Gloria is stepping into the more than 100 housing bills being proposed in Sacramento with his own housing package.

The package includes four bills written or co-written by Gloria, each trying to address a different aspect of the state’s housing and homelessness woes.

“This problem is so pervasive and it impacts so many sectors of our society,” Gloria said. “We need to address subsidized housing, supportive housing, market-rate production. One bill wouldn’t be enough.”

The first, AB 1193, would change the way property taxes work for low-income housing developers, allowing them to plan for a certain level of funds coming in from property taxes on certain units, so they can invest them in future maintenance, capital repairs and loan requirements.

“The potential fluctuation in property taxes is a level of financial uncertainty,” Gloria said. “When the project’s manager has a predictable property tax assessment, that means the cash flow is pretty obvious and they don’t’ have to divert money from maintenance and upkeep to pay a property tax bill.”

The second, AB 1406, sponsored by Gloria and Assembly Housing Committee chair David Chiu, could increase the amount of money going to aid California’s homeless youth.

Nearly a third of the nation’s homeless youth live in California yet the state until recently invested just $1.1 million annually in addressing the problem. San Diego County currently gets just $180,000 a year from the state to support a program run by nonprofit San Diego Youth Services.

This bill would dole out $15 million in annual grants to up to 10 regions to fund services or housing assistance to homeless youth between 16 and 24 years old.

“We need to do right by these kids and give them a better shot,” Gloria said. “This isn’t just a budget line.”

San Diego Youth Services CEO Walter Philips, vice chair of statewide lobbying group California Coalition for Youth, has spent the past three years pushing for another $10 million on top of Gloria and Chiu’s pitch.

“I think there’s still so many competing interests and concerns and some caution,” Philips said.

There’s also a competing bill. Republican Assemblyman Tom Lackey of Palmdale has introduced a measure that would create a grant program for transitional housing focused on youth. Gloria said he’s talking to Lackey about his bill in hopes they can agree on an approach.

The third bill, AB 1505, co-written with Assemblyman Richard Bloom from Santa Monica, would allow cities to use their inclusionary housing policies for rental developments.

Inclusionary housing policies require developers to either include low-income units in their developments or to instead pay a fee that goes to agencies like the San Diego Housing Commission to develop, fund and operate affordable housing. Right now, cities can only enforce those rules with for-sale projects and not with rental units.

The bill wouldn’t force municipalities that don’t have inclusionary policies to adopt them, but would allow those that do to apply them to rental units.

The fourth bill,  AB 1637, would allow local housing authorities, like the San Diego Housing Commission, to get involved in mixed-income housing that contains some subsidized and some market rate units.

Housing authorities traditionally deal exclusively with low-income housing. If the bill passes, they would be able to use certain funds for mixed-income properties, as long as at least 20 percent of the development was set aside for low-income housing.

The bill originated from a report produced by the San Diego Housing Commission in 2015 that looked at San Diego’s housing affordability problem and is being sponsored by the city of San Diego.

Maya Srikrishnan and Lisa Halverstadt

Cindy Marten Makes Her Case in Sacramento

San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten met with state officials in Sacramento on Thursday, including representatives from the governor’s office, the California Department of Finance, the California Department of Education and the Association of California School Administrators.

Marten “affirmed her support for increased and adequate K-12 funding, and for the Local Control Funding Formula,” said Khieem Jackson, government affairs director for San Diego Unified.

The district is waiting for the so-called May revise – the governor’s revised state budget – which will determine how much state funding the district will receive and thus, how many people it must lay off to close a $124 million budget shortfall.

San Diego Unified’s interim CFO Patricia Koch warned earlier this year, though, that even a favorable state budget in May isn’t likely to save the district from cuts.

“I think it is very important for the board to be aware that even if the May revise restores the entirety of what was lost in January, we are still facing more than $100 million in reductions in ‘17-18. So, the May revise is not the place to look for eliminating our problem. It may help, but we will still need to make reductions.” Koch told the board Feb. 21.

Jackson said that Marten did not advocate for or against any specific bills while in Sacramento.

There are, of course, many education bills being floated in Sacramento that could have an impact here, including a bill that’s been tabled but, if ultimately successful, could drastically curb charter schools’ growth.

The bill would “would give local school boards the first and last say on approving or denying charter school petitions,” Mario Koran wrote this week. “The legislation underscores the tensions baked into a system in which school districts are asked to authorize and oversee the same charter schools with which they compete for students.”

Golden State News

• There’s a long list of issues and policy questions for which California simply doesn’t have any data. (CalMatters)

• Many of the hardline advisers who have President Donald Trump’s ear are California exiles. (Politico Magazine)

• In November, California voters raised the cigarette tax once again with Prop. 56. But tobacco companies know a way around it. (New York Times)

• … and from Prop. 56 to Prop. 57: Last year’s criminal justice reform bill expanded sentence credits for inmates who complete rehab classes. This story sounds a hopeful note that the reforms are working. (L.A. Times)

• Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher and Secretary of State Alex Padilla want lawmakers to put a $450 million bond measure on the 2018 ballot to modernize voting machines. (Sacramento Bee)

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

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