The Community vs Cops Conundrum

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Today’s column includes coverage of proposed legislation in the wake of increasing concerns about police practices, another look at an SDPD officer-involved shooting, examples of the race/class divisions in prosecutions, some baseball news, and dispatches from the climate change denier front….

Multiple controversies about the use of deadly force by law enforcement agencies are prompting calls for reform.

Since the first of the year, 396 people have been killed by police in the United States. The officer involved fatalities include two would-be terrorists who attacked a right wing “draw a picture of Mohammad” contest in Texas over the weekend.

By way of contrast, there have been 38 line-of-duty deaths of law enforcement officers in 2015. 
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A Rough Ride in Baltimore Leads to Charges Against Police

gray homicide

By Doug Porter

Six Baltimore police officers now face charges following a medical examiner’s ruling calling 25-year-old Freddie Gray’s death on April 12th a homicide.

States Attorney Marilyn Mosby told the press Gray died of a severe and critical neck injury suffered while handcuffed, shackled by his feet and left unsecured inside a police van as it took 38 minutes to deliver him to a police station just two minutes away.

Mosby went on to say Gray was “illegally arrested,” that police failed to establish probable cause for his arrest, and the knife he had when arrested was legal and was not a switchblade. 
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The Closing of Corinthian Colleges Leaves Thousands of Students with Unhappy Choices

By Doug Porter

On Sunday, April 26th, the for-profit Corinthian Colleges, Inc. closed its doors. Twenty eight campuses, plus online options, spread over five states were gone. Ten thousand of the sixteen thousand students then-enrolled at those colleges are from California.

The predatory recruiting and loan sales practices of Corinthian left many students with tens of thousands of dollars in debt. The U.S. Department of Education is urging students to considering transferring to other schools, including at least 13 other for-profit institutions with corporate owners subject to state or federal investigations.

While the former students are now eligible for complete forgiveness of their federal student loans, the Education Department is working hard to avoid a potential $214 million payout. The problem for many of these students is that their completed credits are not transferable to schools accredited as public institutions; they can keep (and run up further) their debt or start over. 
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Senator Sanders is Running for President. Now Can We Get Past What Hillary Clinton Wore Last Night?

By Doug Porter

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders will be running for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016, according to stories on Vermont Public Radio and in major media outlets around the country.

Sen. Sanders’ outspoken and honest nature should be a game-changer for what was shaping up to be dull primary season for Democrats. His presence in the race means we should see more than token discussions about the economic issues facing the country.  And, best of all, he’s not afraid of offending the billionaire bankers at the top of the heap.

Party regulars inclined to dismiss his candidacy because of the inevitability of a Clinton victory would do well to reconsider their stance. Just ask the Democratic party in Burlington, Vermont, which led a tea party-style obstructionist revolt after Sanders was elected Mayor in 1981. 
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Mayor Faulconer’s Stealth Re-Election Campaign Emerges

By Doug Porter

You’d think that One San Diego, the sort-of government operated non-governmental organization (GONGO) charged with drumming up tea and sympathy for the under-served parts of the city, would be smart enough to stage an event in one of those neighborhoods without engaging in petty partisan politics. But you’d be wrong.

Take, for instance, the Community Forum on Jobs scheduled for this evening (April 28) at the Barrio Station. Mayor Kevin Faulconer will be joined by representatives of the Workforce Partnership, UC San Diego and the Chamber of Commerce to present the “next generation of jobs programs.”

None of the organizations or politicians involved even informed–much less invited–David Alvarez, the City Councilman representing both the locale for the event and a district facing serious challenges in employment. 
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San Diego’s Vanity Documentary: How Smart Were We?

By Doug Porter

You’d have to be a real hermit to miss the stories coming from multiple media outlets recently about San Diego’s inclusion in “National Geographic’s Smart Cities” series. The breathless coverage bragged about millions of viewers, more millions on Facebook and what a great deal it was for the city.

A bunch of local institutions, including local governments, ponied up chunks of money to get our fair city a higher profile. I’m looking at the deal today and thinking we got played for suckers.

Maybe we were oversold on just how good that deal was. Maybe nobody said what we were really buying was “Paid Programming” on a Fox cable channel. Jeez, I wonder if we’ll be scheduled next to a documentary on Juicing Machines for the Millennium? 
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Activists to Rep. Scott Peters: Do the Right Thing on Fast Track, Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

By Doug Porter

People representing organized labor, environmental and faith groups staged a rally outside the offices of Rep. Scott Peters yesterday, urging him to oppose legislation limiting congressional oversight on trade agreements currently being negotiated.

The demonstration at Peters office is symbolic of a larger political battle being waged over the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership(TPP). Business groups and most Republican legislators are supporting the Obama administration, contending an agreement is necessary as an important counterweight to China’s growing clout in the region.

In Washington on Thursday the so-called Fast Track legislation cleared an important hurtle as House Ways and Means Committee voted 25-13 in favor. A companion “fast-track” bill cleared a Senate panel on Wednesday and both are now ready for action in their respective chambers.

Today I’ll do my best–this is complicated–to give you an overview of what’s going on. 
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California Vaccination Law Passes Education Committee

By Doug Porter

The California Senate Education Committee has approved a modified version of SB277, a controversial measure making vaccinations a prerequisite for enrollment in both private and public schools throughout the state. 

Medical exemptions for inoculations will be permitted and amendments were added expanding homeschooling options for unvaccinated children. Gone will be the personal-belief and religious exemptions currently exercised by about 10% of parents with school aged children in California. 

The Senate Committee’s action came the day after a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association ruled out the possibility that immunizations could cause autism in a small group of children who were already primed to develop the disorder.  
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Reader-izing San Diego’s CityBeat Weekly

While I’m guessing some coverage of interest to progressives will continue to appear, the heart and soul of the organization appear to be headed in another direction.

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By Doug Porter

There’s trouble afoot at San Diego CityBeat, the alt-weekly known for its focus on local progressive politics, arts, and music.

Editor Dave Rolland and associate editor Kelly Davis both cited plausible professional reasons as they exited the publication in March, with Rolland promising readers “our departure does not foretell CityBeat’s demise.”

Incoming editor Ron Donoho started off vowing to “continue this alt-weekly tradition,” and pledging to “stink up the place if our local leaders foul things up.” Unfortunately these promises were woven into a bizarre scatological analogy, ending with “if we see brown, we’ll flush it down.” 
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Manufacturing Consent for a New Stadium in San Diego

By Doug Porter

Two months ago prospects for building a new football stadium were waning. The thinking was that San Diego had done too little, too late to accommodate the demands of the Chargers for a new facility. The football team, it seemed, was ready to head north for a more obliging locale.

Now, thanks to a blizzard of press releases and the timely release of a think tank study, the tide may be turning. Today we’ll take a look at those developments and the role they may play in shaping public opinion.

Back on February 2nd a certain columnist (me) noted  “The only thing more likely to be declared dead on arrival than any plan coming out of the newly ensconced Citizens’ Stadium Advisory Group for San Diego is the budget proposal the President is sending to the Republican-controlled congress.” 
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California Chamber of Commerce Wants to Kick Widows to the Curb

By Doug Porter

It’s the time of year again when the the Golden State’s Chamber of Commerce issues it’s hit list of “job killer” bills being considered in Sacramento. This year there are 17 or so items on the preliminary list; more are expected to be added as the session goes on.

Included in the “Increased Unnecessary Litigation Costs” section is AB244, introduced by  Assemblymember Susan Eggman (D- Stockton). The measure would clarify protections in the California Housing Bill of Rights, specifying that widows and other surviving family members are covered in their dealings with mortgage servicers.

Presently these homeowners can find themselves caught in a “Catch 22” if they seek a loan modification. Servicers inform them that they can’t be considered for a modification until they assume the mortgage. But, they won’t let them assume the mortgage unless they demonstrate that they can afford it. As a result, mortgage payments are missed, fees rack up, and foreclosure can be the unnecessary outcome. 
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San Diego’s Family Jewels Losing Their Luster

By Doug Porter

It’s been a bad week for cherished institutions in America’s Finest City. Our blessed football team, our world famous zoo, our info-tainment water park, and the mayor’s Hope Diamond of re-development all find themselves in trouble of one sort or another.

You might even say business as usual is getting unusual for San Diego. While a few instances of bad news do not constitute an omen of fundamental change, there’s reasons to believe we have not seen the end of these wannabe sordid sagas.

Then there are the shenanigans taking place in the electoral arena. Jacquie Atkinson is challenging Rep. Scott Peters. Supervisor Dave Roberts is in some kind of trouble. And those pesky House Republicans are after funding studying climate change, Again. 
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Super Sized #Fightfor15 Protests, Value Meal Press Coverage

By Doug Porter 

I spent most of yesterday traveling around San Diego with roughly three dozen fast food workers. The local version of the nationwide Fight for 15 movement made a statement at ten locations around town, taking to the streets both in North Park and downtown. 

The mostly brown and black workers on the bus were those who’d committed to taking a day off from work (there were others that came and went) to let the world know they wanted a better life. Two were older, having spent more than two decades in the business. Some had families to support. Some brought their kids along. Others were trying to go to community college on a fast food paycheck. All of them believed they could make a difference, even if they were just paying it forward. 

Many of these strikers shared their personal stories with TV and radio station reporters along the way. Some spoke up at the rally capping off the day. But the real story was the amazing level of grit and determination. There was a strong consciousness of this day being about larger issues motivating them as much if not more than their own personal dilemmas.  
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On Equal Pay Day (and Every Other Day) Trickle-Down Continues to Fail

By Doug Porter

The second Tuesday in April marks the observance of Equal Pay Day. This calendar date hypothetically represents the length of time past New Years’ Day many women must work at the same job in order to match what men make in a year.

The day is a symbolic means of illustrating the differences in pay existing throughout the economy based on gender, despite legislative actions aimed a rectifying the problem dating back to 1869.  The National Committee on Pay Equity offers up a variety of programs for addressing inequities tied to gender.

This pay gap is one important part of a much larger picture of discrimination and inequality rampant in the Millennial Gilded Age. 
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Let’s Make History: Going All In for $15 on April 15th

By Doug Porter

What started out as protests against wages paid to workers in fast food restaurants in a few big cities has become a nationwide movement, encompassing retail, home care, security, child care, and airport workers, along with adjunct college professors.

On Wednesday, April 15th, while much of the traditional news media is camped outside post offices trying to interview the vanishing breed of Luddites using snail mail to file their taxes, these modern-day fighters for fair wages will be protesting in over 200 cities nationwide.

As was true with the civil rights movement of the 20th century, an increasing number of persons of conscience are joining in with those brave enough to challenge an injustice.If you’re aware of the ever-increasing level of economic inequality and sick of the system that primarily rewards those at top, this is an opportunity to spend a few hours doing something more than tsk-tsking at articles posted in social media. 
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Playing Russian Roulette With California’s Water Supply

By Doug Porter

The intensity of the Blame Game is ratcheting up as California reels from the impact of a multi-year drought and the outline of a statewide plan to deal with it emerges. Today we’ll wander through some of the news coverage from around the state, ending up with ideas under discussion that go beyond the current planning.

Draft rules by the State Water Resources Board released on Tuesday place the heaviest conservation burden on cities and towns with the highest rates of per-capita water consumption. The San Diego County Water Authority says these rules are unfair to areas that have already instituted policies aimed at reducing use and increasing supplies.

As things stand now, State water officials will announce specific conservation regulations May 5th, and with implementation set for June 1st. Local agencies supplied by the Water Authority would have to cut back 20% to 35% percent under the proposed restrictions. 
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Fast Tracking the Trans Pacific Partnership: An Offer Congress Ought to Refuse

By Doug Porter

Over the next few weeks there will be a barrage of opinion on a complicated subject: the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a deal in the making between pacific rim nations effectively setting the ground rules for most international trade in the 21st century.

Please, don’t let your eyes glaze over. This is important. Congress is about to be asked to grant the executive branch the authority to present the final version of this agreement on a take it or leave it basis. I believe this deal rewards corporate greed and ignores its role in creating inequality.

Today I’ll try my best to present a primer on the battle already underway. There will be international, national and local events concerning the TPP in the coming days. Your personal economic future is what’s at stake. 
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Another Day, Another Black Human Becomes a Hashtag: Video Shows Cop Shooting SC Man in the Back

By Doug Porter

In the thirty-one days following release of the White House Task Force on 21st Century Policing report, an average of three people per day were killed by police in the United States, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

South Carolina Officer Michael Thomas Slager was charged with first-degree murder for the shooting death of Walter Scott yesterday after a video surfaced showing him firing eight shots into the back of a fleeing, unarmed man. The cop was white. The dead man was black. The incident started with a traffic stop for a broken tail light.

Initial news coverage based on police reports said “the dead man fought with an officer over his Taser before deadly force was employed.” For two days he and the North Charleston police were apparently unaware that a video of the entire incident existed. An all-too-familiar script was followed by both department and the local news media. 
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Todd Gloria Declares for 78th Assembly Seat Race

By Doug Porter

The political reshuffle for 2016 is officially underway in San Diego. City Councilman Todd Gloria has announced his candidacy for the 78th Assembly seat, currently held by soon-to-be termed-out Toni Atkins.

Democratic activist Sarah Boot, who’d declared an interest in running for the job and received an endorsement from Atkins, has thrown her support to Gloria. Former interim City Councilman Ed Harris has also announced his intention to run for the 78th as a Democrat.

This morning’s announcement puts an end to speculation about Gloria running against incumbent Mayor Kevin Faulconer. (Which I’ve said repeatedly wasn’t going to happen.) If the scenario I’ve heard about holds true, we’ll see an announcement from Assemblywoman Atkins later in the year saying she’s going to be the high profile Democrat to oppose Faulconer. 
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Yoga in Encinitas, Gays in Indiana: The Bigots of the Right Fight On

By Doug Porter 

The 4th District Court of Appeal has upheld a lower court ruling allowing yoga to be taught as a form of physical fitness instruction in Encinitas schools. The lawsuit in question was brought by parents of two students who claimed the practice promoted Hinduism and inhibited Christianity. 

The court of public opinion forced the Indiana state legislature to amend its special version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act saying it cannot be used as a legal defense to discriminate against patrons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

You don’t have to look very hard at the backers of the lawsuit and the original version of that legislation to discover that they were pursuing the same agenda. These instances are about furthering the cause of social conservatives to impose their standards of society. This is what they would call fighting the “war on religion.”  
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Will Mickey D’s Dollar Deal Super-Size April 15 Protests?

By Doug Porter

The national ‘conversation’ about inequality shifted a bit this week with a press release from fast food giant McDonald’s announcing it was planning a pay raise for employees of its company-owned stores.

The significance of the announcement isn’t the extra dollar on top of whatever is the local minimum wage for the less than 10% of the company’s workers. WalMart, Target, and a growing number of other large retailers operations have made similar announcements in recent months.

These pay increases are too little, too late. A study released by Americans for Tax Fairness earlier this week says increases to $9 (in 2015) and even $10 (in 2016) will still leave  workers dependent on food stamps, Medicaid and six other taxpayer-funded programs to survive. And McDonald’s announcement has simply added fuel to the fire in the bellies of low wage workers planning on staging protests nation-wide on April 15th. 
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Drilling Down on California’s Drought

By Doug Porter

California Gov. Jerry Brown called for mandatory water restrictions yesterday, telling state officials to put together a package of water saving incentives and limits to reduce use by 25 percent, compared with use two years ago.

While there appears to be broad political support for the governor’s intentions, we’ll see how that holds up when specific actions are announced. It is, after all, hard to deny the reality of mountains normally covered in snow absolutely bare. But denying reality seems to be in vogue these days, so who knows?

The drought –and extreme weather conditions in other parts of the world– are associated with climate changes occurring throughout the planet. Today we’ll look at both short and long term perspectives on what’s going on around us. 
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SeaWorld Steals a Page from the Scientology Playbook

By Doug Porter

A book tour by a former SeaWorld trainer critical of the company’s treatment of Orcas has led to the theme park releasing a five year old cell phone video depicting the author using racial slurs during a drunken conversation.

Critics of SeaWorld are saying this action is just another example of a sub rosa campaign by a company seeking to defend itself against charges that it mistreats the animals it keeps in captivity. The company saw one million fewer customers in 2014 as compared  to the previous year.

While the latest move by SeaWorld had led La Jolla’s Warwick’s bookstore to cancel a signing event for “Beneath the Surface” author John Hargrove, it appears to have energized protesters organizing an Easter Sunday demonstration at the company’s Mission Bay location. 
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Protests on 4/15 Up the Ante in the Fight for $15 in San Diego

By Doug Porter

It’s no longer about just fast food; the movement for a fifteen dollar an hour wage is expanding to embrace low-wage workers everywhere, along with the larger questions of inequality.

Everywhere includes San Diego, where organizers are planning a full day of actions. Fast food workers from McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s , Subway, Sonic, and Taco Bell will be taking a ‘day off.’ Security guards and janitors will participate in a mid-day downtown protest against an-as-yet-unnamed “bad employer.”

A community-based demonstration is planned for City Heights starting at 1:30 calling attention to the need to decriminalize the poor in addition to the pay demands. At 3pm a bus will leave from the Rosa Parks Park and Performance Annex headed for a city-wide convergence on the San Diego State University campus (map) starting at 4pm.

The rally at SDSU will include support for rolling back student fees and the start of a unionization drive of the 3000 low wage employees of the campus Aztec Shops. (More info
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Indiana’s So-Called Religious Freedom Law: If It Walks Like a Duck…

By Doug Porter

For a while there I thought Republicans of the sane persuasion (a vanishing species) might prevail on matters relating to the legal status of gay and transgender people. One state after another was giving up on fighting same-sex marriage. 

What with “New Republicans” like Carl DeMaio emerging and the Log Cabin GOP caucus gaining legitimacy, I figured the party brass would leave it the hardcore to draw inspiration from the Obama Derangement Syndrome for the next year or so.. 

Then along came Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, signing a bill shepherded by lobbyists representing anti-gay rights organizations conflating freedom of religion with the right to discriminate. Voila! Now the Guns and God wing of the party has an issue to rally behind.  
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