I have a hunch that many people will long remember City Attorney Mara Elliot’s attempt to all but neuter the California Public Records Act earlier this year – an attempt that was thankfully short-lived.
But I also get the feeling that not many people remember, or even heard about to begin with, a story involving Elliott’s office and press freedoms that Andrew Keatts wrote months before that, in which he detailed her office’s aggressive attempts to find and punish someone they suspected had leaked documents to VOSD that shed light on a disturbing sexual assault case.
In going after a city employee it suspected of accessing the documents, the city “‘both procedurally and substantively’ violated Hoover’s attorney-client privilege, and found that Milligan, the deputy city attorney, had violated the State Bar of California’s rules of conduct,” a court determined.
I’ve been thinking about that case a lot as the story of police targeting a journalist in San Francisco continues to play out.
Police took a sledgehammer to the reporter’s door in a raid, and are accusing him of committing a crime by obtaining confidential documents. Of course, people pass along documents to us all the time, and receiving them is not a criminal act. (Please, keep passing!) After digging in, San Francisco’s police chief stunningly reversed himself Friday and apologized for the raid, and admitted police hadn’t made it clear on the search warrant the person in question was a journalist.
Those episodes and others drive home the extent to which press freedoms are under assault, even in sunny, liberal California.
Last week, in a terse tentative order, a judge ruled against Attorney General Xavier Becerra for fighting the disclosure of police misconduct records mandated by a new state law. Becerra, of course, has made it his mission to sue the Trump administration many times over to demonstrate California’s resistance to the president’s policies. But here at home, he’s resisted efforts to allow journalists to shine a light on what government officials are doing. (Disclosure: My husband works for the California Department of Justice.)
From Elliott to Becerra to the liberal leaders of San Francisco, it’s all a good reminder that even progressive politicians who purport to resist Trump can act an awful lot like him when it comes to contempt for the press.
What VOSD Learned This Week
Two teachers at Westview High School have been caught sending inappropriate text messages to female students, but both remain in the classroom.
The city will soon decide on a company to run the Sports Arena – but two of the groups vying for the job are going to court over whether financial records showing how much the venue brings in should be public.
Many local fire departments turn to a private company to inspect homes and plots of land for brush and debris that could fuel a wildfire. If homeowners don’t clean up, the company will come uninvited onto their property and do it for them – at a price. Sometimes, it even puts liens on people’s homes when they don’t pay up.
At the heart of the recent tensions at SANDAG are two competing visions for what the future of San Diego should look like.
Over the last two weeks, we’ve learned the (likely) fates of the two most high-profile bills in the state Legislature. Assemblywoman Shirley Weber secured a deal that all but ensures her measure to limit when police can legally deploy deadly force will become law. And on the podcast, we continued the discussion on the demise of SB 50, the measure that would allow far more home-building near transit.
Speaking of state laws, some that are already on the books and that give parents agency over failing schools have quietly become moot now that California has instituted a new school accountability system.
What I’m Reading
- Over the last few months I’ve joked a lot about hanging it all up and becoming a consultant. This piece drives home the degree to which government is killing itself with its overreliance on consultants. (The Week)
- Shot: To be honest, I would walk through fire to protect Allyson Felix, who wrote this week about emerging from the culture of silence surrounding pregnancy for track and field athletes and particularly those sponsored by Nike. Chaser: The culture of silence doesn’t end there – this piece argues that parents can help themselves by speaking candidly about their child care obligations in the office. (New York Times, The Atlantic)
- You might not think “The Hills” reboot and the New York Times Magazine are a good match for each other, but the latter captures the former perfectly.
- The internet went nuts when it decided that HUD Secretary Ben Carson didn’t know the difference between a real estate term and a cookie. This is a good analysis breaking down why everything else Carson said during his testimony before a House committee was far more offensive. (Rolling Stone)
Line of the Week
“In a deadly exercise of freedom that has already sparked nationwide debate, authorities confirmed Tuesday that freedom-wielding high school sophomore Langston Perry Shamet freedomed down 16 classmates in the latest in a series of mass freedomings.” — The Onion really went for it with this one, and I’m here for it.