My Day in Court, Short and Bittersweet

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By Bob Dorn

I had the distinction of being the first person thrown off a jury peremptorily in a courtroom this week. Before any evidence was introduced in this criminal misdemeanor case (a DUI), and before prosecution and defense had opened their arguments, the judge was forced to dismiss me from service.

It was the Deputy DA who had me thrown out. I’m not sure I understand why he did it. In legal terms, it was a peremptory challenge, and it means the attorney who exercised this right, the Deputy DA, could object to my presence on the jury without offering any cause or reason.

Was it my blue eyes? Do I look like a drunk? My curriculum vitae? Was it something I said?   [Read more…]

NLRB Ruling Could Be a Game Changer for Unions

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By Doug Porter

A Reagan-era standard allowing corporations to maintain an arms-length relationship with their workforces fell by the wayside yesterday as the National Labor Relations Board ruled in favor of the Teamsters in a dispute with California recycler Browning-Ferris Industries.

The bottom line here is that big companies may be held responsible for what goes on in the workplace. Organized labor is pleased with the decision. Wall Street isn’t. The actual ruling concerned the use of temporary employees. What people are reacting to are its game changing implications.

There are lots of poorly informed (meaning full of crap) analyses being passed off in various media accounts.  To use a baseball analogy, just because a team acquires a high performance player doesn’t mean they’ll have a winning season. Just ask the San Diego Padres.   [Read more…]

Street Repairs Could Jump Start Municipal Internet

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By Jose Caballero

It’s no secret that when it comes to streets San Diego has a rough ride. We were recently ranked 8th worst in the nation for our roads, costing drivers $843 a year in maintenance costs. Mayor Faulconer has said he will fix them over the next 5 years. However, he’s missing a major opportunity if they just put down new pavement.

In February, the Federal Communications Commission preempted state laws banning municipal internet services, allowing cities, meaning San Diego could build networks featuring lightning fast, gigabit, fiber to the premise (FTTP) service, which would be among the fastest anywhere in the world. This has been done successfully in Chattanooga, TN and Wilson, NC, with other cities from Seattle to Baltimore considering making their own systems.
  [Read more…]

Welcome to TrumpLand: A Local Example of Bigotry USA! USA! Style

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By Doug Porter

I’ve been trying not to say too much about The Donald. He’s playing the media like a great violinist plays a Stradivarius. He says jump and the stenographers posing as journalists say “how high?”

I can no longer remain silent in the face of the hate-mongering coming from this public figure aimed at Latinos. He’s giving ammunition to assholes, and there are real consequences, even on the streets of San Diego.

When a well-known and respected public advocate can’t take his child to a park without being race baited, it’s time to stand up and say No More. And, yes, it is precisely the rhetoric favored by Donald Trump that’s encouraging an upswing in bigotry.   [Read more…]

SANDAG’s Transportation Plan is Stuck in Reverse

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By Hutton Marshall / SanDiego350.org

Climate change is a local issue that reaches every corner of the globe. Human activities, especially burning coal, oil and gas, are pumping heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. More than any other time in human history, we’re seeing unlivable marine habitats, rising seas that threaten to subsume coastal societies, and, on land, increases in extreme weather including droughts, floods and severe storms. The changes are happening everywhere, but the effects are felt locally. And the solutions have to come from changes we make in every community.

At SanDiego350, a local nonprofit fighting climate change, we believe that San Diego is at an important crossroads where we must decide how we will reduce our contribution to Earth’s looming climate crisis.  Once a month in the San Diego Free Press we’ll discuss some of these issues, and how San Diegans can help address them.   [Read more…]

Women’s Equality Day: Celebrating the Success of Militant Protest

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The argument of the broken pane of glass is the most valuable argument in modern politics.–Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst

By Doug Porter

Women’s Equality Day (August 26th) marks anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, giving women the right to vote.

There are observances this week in San Diego, including a re-enactment of an early-century Suffrage march in Balboa Park.

Organizations including the League of Women Voters, the United Nations Women’s Equity Council, the Older Women’s League and others, will join members and supporters of the Women’s Museum at 5pm for a Rally on Thursday, (Aug 27th) at the Kate Sessions Statue, at the 6th Avenue end of the Cabrillo Bridge, followed by a parade across the bridge info the Organ Pavilion where the last free concert of the summer will be held at 6:30pm.

While this commemoration will be celebratory in nature, it’s important to remember, as Frederick Douglass once said, “Power never concedes nothing without a demand.” In many sanitized versions of US history, the struggle leading up to that victory is depicted as controversial only because women left their roles as wives and house-makers to protest. The reality of what transpired is considerably different.   [Read more…]

Nail Salon Workplaces Need A Touch Up

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By Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez

Today I am convening an informational hearing in the Capitol as Chair of the Select Committee on Women in the Workplace, bringing together stakeholders to discuss the challenges faced in the industry and to hear personal testimony from nail salon workers. I’m encouraged to be joined by the Chairs of four other Assembly Committees and other legislators to begin the collaborative process we need to achieve the change these workers need.

Recent in-depth coverage in the New York Times revealed shocking, systematic abuse going on right under the noses of thousands of nail salon customers every day. The reports found employees living in squalor and isolation, underpaid or completely unpaid, and ravaged by health problems possibly connected to chemicals they handle on the job. It echoed and expanded upon reporting done recently in California, drawing new attention to deeply troubling working conditions in the nail salon industry across the country.

Today’s hearing is an important start to ensure that the employees of these salons are effectively covered by California’s workplace safety and wage and hour laws. These laws should guarantee all workers fair treatment and safe working conditions, and it’s our responsibility to make sure they work.   [Read more…]

Privatizing Pensions and Idolizing Profit in the 21st Century

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By Doug Porter

Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik has been on a tear recently, rolling out essays challenging the validity of claims made by those who claim privatizing retirement is the way of the future.

At the core of these conservative/libertarian arguments against public support for defined pensions is a fundamental belief in the supremacy of the “market” as a force in society. 

The problem with this viewpoint comes when actual results for those programs participants are measured. The market has no obligation other than profit, which is only guaranteed for those managing the transactions.   [Read more…]

Tyranny of the Majority: The American Winner Take All System

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No wonder that, among the 21 democracies in Western Europe and North America, the United States is next to last in voter turn-out…

By John Lawrence

A lot of people these days are concerned with getting the money out of politics. That’s an admirable goal, but it doesn’t solve the problem that’s built right into the American political system: a voting system in which the majority rules and there is no minority representation because the winner takes all. At every level the US is divided up into districts whether its state assembly and senatorial districts, US Congressional districts, San Diego city council districts or what have you. Citizens in a particular district can only vote for one candidate and the candidate with the most votes wins in that district.

Even states can be considered voting districts and in each state you can vote for two US Senators, just not at the same time. If there are candidates you like outside of your district, you have no democratic decision making process with which to vote for them. For example, I can’t vote for Bernie Sanders for Senator because I’m not a resident of Vermont. Similarly, I can’t vote for Elizabeth Warren because I’m not a citizen of Massachusetts. The US voting system on every level is archaic.   [Read more…]

It’s Strike Three for San Diego Unified’s School Board President, But She’s Not Out

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By Doug Porter

San Diego Unified President Marne Foster was in the news over the past few days, and not in a positive light.

The State Attorney General’s office, according to a story in the Union-Tribune, is asking pointed questions about a fundraiser held last month to help pay off debt and college costs for her sons.

On August 19th, the San Diego Unified School District issued a response to a grand jury report on ethics questions concerning Foster, essentially telling the panel to “shove it.”

Mario Koran at Voice of San Diego posted a piece today on Foster, filling in the blanks on long standing allegations about her role in the firing of a highly ranked school principal who refused to go along with special privileges for the School Board Trustee’s son.   [Read more…]

Preserve Carlsbad Open Space the Right Way: Let Us Vote

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By Richard Riehl / The Riehl World

When it comes to air pollution, the Carlsbad City Council’s report on the Agua Hedionda Initiative, the “9212 Report,” reads a little like “close enough for guv’ment work.” When it comes to traffic congestion, it’s a developer’s faith-based initiative. But when it comes to the city’s projected $2.6 million a year tax revenue windfall it’s, “Whoopee, we’re gonna be rich!”

City staff took 2 ½ months to write the August 7 report. The Council and general public will have had 17 days to read and think about what’s in its 254 pages, and the 542 additional pages of supporting documents, before next Tuesday, August 25, when the Council will decide whether to approve the plan with no further review, put it on the ballot for voters to decide, or take more time to think it over.   [Read more…]

Campaign Zero: A ‘Blueprint for Ending Police Violence’

'We must end police violence so we can live and feel safe in this country,' Campaign Zero states on its website. (Photo: Basil-Malik/flickr/cc)

By Nadia Prupis / Common Dreams

On Friday, activists with the country’s growing racial justice movement unveiled a new campaign to end police violence, bridging protester demands with data and policy to create structural solutions to the crisis that has gripped national attention for more than a year.

Launched as an online manifesto with an interactive website, Campaign Zero proposes new federal, state, and local laws that would address police violence and reform the criminal justice system—including demilitarizing law enforcement, increasing community oversight, limiting use-of-force, and requiring independent investigation and prosecution of police violence cases.

“More than one thousand people are killed by police every year in America,” the group states on its website. “Nearly sixty percent of victims did not have a gun or were involved in activities that should not require police intervention such as harmless ‘quality of life’ behaviors or mental health crises.”   [Read more…]

Readers Write: It’s Time for the Downtown Crowd to Pay Its Own Way

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Editors Note: Attorney Cory Briggs responded to a commenter on Thursday’s Starting Line item regarding a proposed ballot measure on hotel taxes and a shared a bit of history about the tourism industry’s relationship with the City of San Diego. We’ve taken the liberty of posting it as a “Readers Write” essay.

…I offer this for the sake of precision. The scam is very clever, and I don’t want people to mistake one bad actor for another (which is very easy to do in this town because there are so many). To win at the ballot box, we need the public to understand exactly what’s going on. (I’ll jump on my soapbox at the end.)

The SDTA is not taxing anyone. The City is taxing tourists 10.5% as TOT and then another 2% for the “Tourism Marketing District Assessment” but it’s really a tax. The hoteliers claim to have imposed the TMD tax on themselves as a “self-assessment,” which is how they rationalized not putting the 2% hike to the voters, but then wrote the rules in a way that allows them to put the 2% TMD tax on their hotel guests’ bills right next to the TOT. The hotels collect the money from their guests and pay it over to the City, and the City then writes a check for that same 2% (after deducting a small admin fee) to the San Diego Tourism Marketing District Corporation.

The SDTMDC is run by a small handful of big hoteliers, and they get to decide how the money is spent. At this point, the public has no ability to influence the rate of the TMD tax or how it is spent — except at the ballot box if we get enough signatures on this initiative.   [Read more…]

The Hillary Question: Two Telling Tales

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By Doug Porter

Six months ago, most Democrats believed the upcoming presidential primary season would be little more than a warm-up for the coronation of Hillary Clinton as the party’s choice to face off against the GOP’s nominee.

A feisty Vermonter with wiry hair has upset the Democratic applecart. Today’s column will start off with two tales of Hillary, told with the hope of providing insight into the nature of her as a candidate. (Those hoping for a bashing session will have to wait for another day.)

I, for one, thought the early campaign months would be focused on the circular firing squad that has come to represent the Republican contest for the nomination. Fortunately, my stockpile of popcorn won’t go to waste.   [Read more…]

‘Out of Step’: Investigation Uncovers Striking Paid Leave Divide in US

In the United States, only about 13 percent of U.S. workers have access to any form of paid family leave. (Photo: Corrinne Yu/cc/flickr)

By Lauren McCauley / Common Dreams

With the idea of paid maternity leave gaining traction as a means of recruiting workplace “talent” or used as a talking point on the campaign trail, an In These Times investigation published on Tuesday reveals the sad reality for millions of U.S. families.

In the United States, only about 13 percent of U.S. workers have access to any form of paid family leave, which includes parental leave and other time off to care for a family member, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.   [Read more…]

This New Federal Rule Will Bring Secretive Corporate Tax Breaks to Light

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Every year, governments spend tens of billions of dollars on tax breaks for private companies. Now, state and city governments will have to start reporting it as lost income.

By Puck Lo / Yes! Magazine

In 2013, Chicago’s Board of Education announced that due to a $1 billion deficit, the city was closing some 50 public schools. The same year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel gave more than $55 million in public tax money to build a new basketball arena and hotel. Many outraged students took to the streets to protest. Asean Johnson, nine years old at the time, was one of them.   [Read more…]

Bernie Sanders, American Socialist

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By John Lawrence

Bernie Sanders has been drawing huge crowds to his rallies. The American media cannot ignore that. But they will never use the S word to describe Bernie even though that is how he describes himself. Bernie represents those who would tax Wall Street to preserve social security and a host of other common sense proposals. He dares to suggest that college should be free rather than the first stage of a life of indentured servitude and indebtedness.

People are listening – especially young people. Bernie has been saying these things for years but the media for the most part has been ignoring him. Now he has a bigger megaphone. His decision to run for President in order to get his message out there is paying off.

As Bernie himself has said: “the ideas and the points that we are making are reverberating very strongly with the American people.” Whoever would have thought that Bernie Sanders, Socialist, would be reverberating with the American people, the American people who love freedom and think that society should be set up in such a way that everybody has a chance, no matter how small, of getting rich?   [Read more…]

The Trump Immigration Plan, Like His Candidacy, Mostly Smoke and Mirrors

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By Richard Riehl / The Riehl World

After weeks of generalizations about his positions on the issues, Donald Trump released his first policy paper last weekend, Immigration Reform That Will Make America Great Again. Its three core principles are building a wall that can’t be scaled or tunneled under, enforcing current law, and “improving jobs, wages and security for all Americans.” It’s clear that applies only to citizens. He lists a series of solutions to problems he believes he can solve, citing sources to support them. But following the links provided to those sources reveals the distortions and exaggerations that serve as the smoke and mirrors of his proposal. Here are a few of the more dishonest examples.   [Read more…]

Area Legislators Return to Sacramento for a Final Push

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By Doug Porter

If you want to understand the issues at play in California politics, keep an eye on the last 20 working days of this year’s legislative session in Sacramento.

Bills will be debated, lobbied and amended. Some will face vetoes from the Governor.

San Diego’s delegation to the statehouse has done an impressive job in this session with several measures remaining to be voted on. Today we’ll take a look at some of the legislation, with an emphasis on our local legislators, up for consideration in the coming days.   [Read more…]

80 Years Later, Republicans Are Still Fighting Social Security

President Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act, at approximately 3:30 pm EDT on August 14, 1935. Standing with Roosevelt are Rep. Robert Doughton (D-NC); unknown person in shadow; Sen. Robert Wagner (D-NY); Rep. John Dingell (D-MI); Rep. Joshua Twing Brooks (D-Pennsylvania); the Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins; Sen. Pat Harrison (D-MS); and Rep. David Lewis (D-MD). (Photo: Archive/Wikimedia Commons)

By Richard Eskow / Campaign for America’s Future Blog

Some things never change. “The lash of the dictator will be felt,” a Republican House member said in 1935 when Social Security was first proposed. “Social Security is the delinquent child of the left,” a Fox News commentator said this week, “that grew up to be an evil dictator.”

“Dictator”? A program created by popularly elected politicians, and which enjoys widespread support among voters?

Polls have consistently shown that Americans are extremely pleased with Social Security, which provides benefits are costs far below those in the private sector. But, as the program celebrates its 80th birthday today, Republicans are still working to erode the public’s trust in it, just as they did when GOP presidential candidate Alf Landon called it “a fraud on the workingman” in 1936 and said “the saving it forces on our workers is a cruel hoax.”   [Read more…]

US Raises Flag in Cuba After 54 Years, but ‘Signs of Mistrust Linger’

Three Marines raise U.S. flag at the U.S. embassy in Havana, Cuba, August 14, 2015

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro has called for the U.S. to repay millions of dollars owed to his country for damage done by its decades-long embargo

By Deidre Fulton / CommonDreams

After more than five decades, the U.S. embassy in Cuba formally re-opened with a flag-raising ceremony on Friday, marking another historic step in the normalization of relations between the two countries.

“For more than half a century, U.S.-Cuba relations have been suspended in the amber of cold war politics,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a speech at the seaside facility. “It’s time to unfurl our flags and let the world know we wish each other well.”   [Read more…]

A Look at San Diego’s Infrastructure Blues

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By Doug Porter

While there is near-universal agreement about the sorry state of San Diego’s infrastructure, building a consensus on the ways and means of getting the job done has proved to be challenging.

The Mayor’s office has been very public about wanting a deal to build a new football stadium, but conversations about how to keep the roads to that stadium in shape and the pipes carrying all the recycled beer away have been muted.

And then there’s the Convention Center, where monies that could have been used for keeping the building in shape were gambled on an improbable expansion plan.   [Read more…]

‘The Problem With the Police, In Other Words, Is Not That They Have Unions, But That They Are Police’

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Erik Loomis / Lawyers, Guns and Money

Sarah Jaffe has an excellent discussion of the relationship between police unions and the rest of the labor movement at Truthout. UAW Local 2865, which represents California graduate students, has pushed for the AFL-CIO to kick out the one police union that remains in the federation, the International Union of Police Associations (IUPA). This has received some attention and is worthy of more.

Jaffe makes a number of key points. First, as the quote I used for the title points out, busting police unions isn’t going to change police behavior at all. The problem is police culture. …   [Read more…]

DeMaio’s Latest Pension Scam Fails Sacramento Sniff Test

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By Doug Porter

Former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio and proponents of  a California ballot initiative requiring pension changes to go through a public vote are screaming foul about the California Attorney General’s official description of that measure. The language, starting out with “eliminates constitutional protections”  will appear on petitions backers use to get signatures.

The backers of the “Public Employees. Pension and  Retiree Healthcare Benefits Initiative/Constitutional Amendment,” issued a statement blasting ‘union bosses’ and ‘politicians’ in response to Kamala Harris’ wording.

Likely most upsetting to the measure’s backers was the omission of the word “empowering.”  This squashed the idea of tapping into the politics of resentment and was a hoped for main selling point by proponents.   [Read more…]