School Board Member Richard Barrera to Head Labor Council
By Doug Porter
The results are in for the last of a series of elections triggered by Bob Filner’s decision to run for Mayor of San Diego. Labor leader Lorena Gonzalez displayed her mastery of the political process, pulling together a massive canvassing campaign that gave her an overwhelming 72% of the vote and a seat in the State Assembly.
For those of you keeping track, Filner moved from the US House of Representatives to Mayor of San Diego, Juan Vargas moved from State Senate to fill Filner’s seat, Ben Hueso moved from State Assembly to State Senate.
In the slime-filled race for San Diego’s 4th District City Council seat, Myrtle Cole triumphed over Dwayne Crenshaw with 53% of the vote. Although both Cole & Crenshaw were both Democrats and similar in outlook, the contest turned into a shadow boxing match, with the organized labor and downtown business interests funding increasingly nasty direct mail campaigns.
The really big news coming out of last night’s contests was the disclosure that San Diego Unified School Board Trustee Richard Barrera will be taking over the helm at the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO. The Labor Council is a coalition of 135 local unions representing more than 200,000 working families in the area that has played an ever increasing role in local politics.
Many observers credit their aggressive door-to-door efforts in recent elections with providing the margin of victory needed to win by Democratic candidates in closely contested elections locally. And it is certainly true that organized labor has played a more prominent role in local politics, moving from being a behind-the-scenes player to exhibiting a willingness to involve their resources in efforts outside the normal realm of unions.
Based on my observations over the past few years, Lorena Gonzalez deserves a lot of the credit for giving what been cast as a stereotypically stodgy organization a literal and figurative facelift. In almost any other situation I’d be looking at last night’s election results with some degree of sadness, knowing that progressives in San Diego were losing a valuable ally.
Richard Barrera’s ascension to the top spot in local labor, however, points to more, not less, activism from organized labor. His work as an organizer for the Nurse’s union isn’t as well known as his role as a defender of quality public education, but it should be.
I had Barrera as an instructor for a college mediation class and worked with him on education issues as a parent involved with the Educate for the Future group, so yes, I’m biased. He has a solid grasp of the Big Picture in US politics and a predisposition to being supportive of progressive activism.
The Other Big Winner Last Night
The UT-San Diego’s losing streak in actual contested local elections ended last night. They’d endorsed Lorena Gonzalez in the race for the 80th District Assembly seat.
But you can expect the feces to hit the fan with their reaction to Barrera’s new role at the labor council. Aside from political consultant Larry Remer, I can’t think of anybody the UT-San Diego editorial board dislikes more.
I predict the demand that Barrera resign from the School Board will be coming in 3…2…1… He hasn’t announced his intentions in that regard, so this might be a moot point. But expect a nasty editorial regardless.
Bus Passes on the Bubble at City Council Hearing
Another positive sign locally has been the surge in activism coming from students and residents in San Diego’s traditionally neglected neighborhoods, like City Heights. A large contingent is expected to show up this evening for the San Diego City Council evening budget hearing tonight at 6pm at City Hall (City Hall, Council Chambers, 202 C Street, 12th Fl., San Diego, 92101).
One battle that they appeared to be winning would be a move to provide free bus passes to disadvantaged youth in San Diego. The San Diego School Board has found some money to support bus passes. The Mayor has included money in his proposed revised budget.
Yet I keep hearing from reliable sources this deal may not pass muster at the City Council. Ultimately this is the kind of project that the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) or MTS should undertake. But the history of those groups strongly suggests they are more inclined to look favorably on the interests of residents in the, uh, more wealthy areas of the city.
For more SDFP coverage on the bus pass issue, go here.
Marijuana Will Make You Grow Hair on Your Palms
The UT-San Diego editorializes today against Bob Filner’s proposed ordinance regulating marijuana dispensaries around the city, featuring many of the same tired excuses that anti-drug warriors have been using since they discovered that pot was popular with people of the darker persuasion.
Of course, they have to oppose it because: Bob Filner. The very idea still sticks in their craw.
The idea of using ‘it’s bad for your health’ as a reason for keeping pot illegal is just ludicrous. Talk to me after you’ve advocated banning tobacco, fossil fuels and many artificial sweeteners.
How would we know, given the government’s restrictions on research in this area? Are there any actual studies that prove pot causes cancer that aren’t counterbalanced by studies saying it reduces risk?? (There is a study of 83,000 men that says marijuana use reduces bladder cancer risk, reported in USA Today on Saturday.)
What we do know is that the ‘war on drugs’ is a waste of taxpayer dollars.
I’d almost be willing to take up a collection to send the UT editorial board to Colorado (where restrictions against using pot have been vastly reduced) so they can do some actual research.
Meanwhile, Filner has intervened in a federal criminal case against the operator of a medical marijuana dispensary by calling upon jurors who might be selected for the upcoming trial to reject federal law in favor of state statutes under a centuries-old legal concept known as “jury nullification”– whereby jurors can refuse to convict people under laws they believe should not be applied.
Don’t Fear the SPRINTER
A while back I wrote about a KPBS / iNewsource story alleging that the North County Transit District’s (NCTD) use of private contractors and sub-contractors was connected to maintenance problems associated with suspension of SPRINTER service for commuters.
Shortly after the story went up I received an email essentially demanding that I phone representatives of one of the companies involved. I felt it was vaguely threatening, but wondered why they were coming after me for reporting about the KPBS story.
As it turns out, I don’t do phone calls very well (having lost my voice to cancer), so I responded saying we’d have to do it via email. (This also offered me the advantage of having everything in writing.) And I never heard from then again.
KPBS / iNewsSource hasn’t been so lucky. They’ve had to fight their way through two letters from NCTD demanding retraction of all or part a series of items, part of the dozen-plus stories they’ve aired. You know, the kind of letter that suggests they’re being unethical and implies that lawyers are standing by to correct these grievous injustices.
And from what I can tell, outside of some minor points that they have corrected, the larger story being told here about NCTD is true.
The KPBS stories indicate to me that NCTD’s been poorly managed, has a high rate of turnover amongst its executives that’s cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in executive search fees and is using some questionable practices when it comes to properly allocating capital and operating expenses in its budgets.
Knowing full well that there’s probably another vaguely unsettling letter in my future, I am running this item in the hope that some other journalists in this town will stand up for the folks at KPBS/iNewsSource. It would help, I suppose, if we had a newspaper covering the North County. But Papa Doug laid waste to that puppy last year.
Crack Babies: Another Media Narrative Gone Wrong
From the NY Times associated project called Retro Report:
This week’s Retro Report video on “crack babies” (infants born to addicted mothers) lays out how limited scientific studies in the 1980s led to predictions that a generation of children would be damaged for life. Those predictions turned out to be wrong. This supposed epidemic — one television reporter talks of a 500 percent increase in damaged babies — was kicked off by a study of just 23 infants that the lead researcher now says was blown out of proportion. And the shocking symptoms — like tremors and low birth weight — are not particular to cocaine-exposed babies, pediatric researchers say; they can be seen in many premature newborns.
The worrisome extrapolations made by researchers — including the one who first published disturbing findings about prenatal cocaine use — were only part of the problem. Major newspapers and magazines, including Rolling Stone, Newsweek, The Washington Post and The New York Times, ran articles and columns that went beyond the research. Network TV stars of that era, including Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather, also bear responsibility for broadcasting uncritical reports.
A much more serious problem, it turns out, is infants who are born with fetal alcohol syndrome.
I’ll Have a Frappuccino, Please
If you’ve ever followed Star Trek Deep Space Nine, you know what I’m talking about. There have been stories aplenty about the quest to build a medical diagnostic device similar to the Tricorder used throughout the Star Trek franchise, and now things are getting really serious. From the Washington Post:
NASA can send robots to Mars, no problem. But if it’s ever going to put humans on the Red Planet, it has to figure out how to feed them over the course of a years-long mission.
So the space agency has funded research for what could be the ultimate nerd solution: a 3-D printer that creates entrees or desserts at the touch of a button.
Yes, it’s another case of life imitating “Star Trek” (remember the food replicator?). In this case, though, the creators hope there is an application beyond deep-space pizza parties. The technology could also be used to feed hungry populations here on Earth.
Texas-based Systems and Materials Research Corp. has been selected for a $125,000 grant from NASA to develop a 3-D printer that will create “nutritious and flavorful” food suitable for astronauts, according to the company’s proposal. Using a “digital recipe,” the printers will combine powders to produce food that has the structure and texture of, well, actual food. Including smell.
The project — the details of which NASA plans to finalize this week — was presented at the Humans 2 Mars Summit in Washingtonearlier this month. At the presentation, Anjan Contractor, an engineer at SMRC and the project manager, explained how the idea originated: he had used a 3-D printer to print chocolate for his wife.
I have so many (fake) questions… Will the food qualify as organic? What about GMO’s? Can it do a vegan diet?
Video Moment – Watch CNN’s Wolf Blitzer squirm
Enjoy this moment of awkwardness from a Wolf Blitzer interview with a woman who survived the devastating Oklahoma tornado. When he asked her if she had thanked the Lord for a decision she made that saved her life, she replied that she was an atheist.
On This Day: 1955 – A scheduled dance to be headlined by Fats Domino was canceled by police in Bridgeport, Connecticut because “rock and roll dances might be featured.” 1967 – “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” premiered on PBS. 2002 – In Birmingham, AL, a jury convicted former Ku Klux Klansman Bobby Frank Cherry of murder in the 1963 church bombing that killed four girls.
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