What You Should Know About Kamala Harris

August 16, 2020 by  
Filed under Featured Articles

Born and bussed to school in Berkeley, tested by San Francisco’s cut-throat municipal politics and propelled onto the national stage as the state’s top law enforcement officer and then its first female senator of color, Harris’ approach to politics and policymaking were honed here.

Although most Americans are now focusing on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s ticket pick — her political pedigree, her record on criminal justice, her reputation as (depending on your point of view) a pragmatic or an over-cautious political figure — we’ve seen it here in California for decades. 

Here are eight ways that California shaped Kamala Harris and that Harris has shaped California.

Harris spent her teenage years in Montreal, moving there with her sister and mother when Gopalan accepted a university research position there. She earned a political science and economics degree at Howard University in Washington D.C. but returned to California to get her law degree in 1989 at the University of California, Hastings in San Francisco.

She’s called California home ever since.

Fresh out of law school, she joined the Alameda County district attorney’s office in 1990, serving there eight years before crossing the bay to San Francisco. In 2003, she unexpectedly won election as San Francisco District Attorney, where she served two terms before her narrow election as state Attorney General in 2010. She was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016.

Despite in many ways reflecting the lessons described in her book Smart on Crime, which argued that non-violent criminals can be redirected into less punitive systems without jeopardizing public health, Harris, the state’s top law enforcement officer, was silent on the policy. 

That earned a rebuke from the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board, which wrote in its endorsement of her 2016 Senate candidacy that Harris “has been too cautious and unwilling to stake out a position on controversial issues, even when her voice would have been valuable to the debate.” 

What some critics call prevarication or flip-floppery, her supporters call pragmatism. Those are just two ways of describing the same quality, said Corey Cook, a political science professor at St. Mary’s College and a longtime observer of San Francisco politics.

“She’s not an ideologue,” he said, meaning rather than stake out the boldest, ideologically-coherent agenda, she tends to focus on individual fixes to specific problems. Hence the “3am agenda” of her presidential campaign, a collection of policy changes designed to address the problems that keep the average voter up at night.

“The idea that she would have consistent positions on issues informed by ideology isn’t who she is,” said Cook. Harris may appear to pick her battles, he said, because for her “the only lasting solutions are going to be the ones that are able to sustain a majority coalition of support.”

In an emailed statement last year, a spokesperson for Harris’ presidential campaign said that she “has spent her career fighting for reforms in the criminal justice system and pushing the envelope to keep everyone safer by bringing fairness and accountability.”

“Whether introducing an anti-recidivism program as San Francisco DA that has become a national model, implementing Open Justice, a first-of-its-kind criminal justice open data initiative, proposing a plan to the governor to implement independent investigations, or becoming the first state agency to require her agents to wear body cameras, Kamala has demonstrated a clear commitment to a transparent and progressive criminal justice system,” the statement said.

Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio (48th District) Introduces Legislation in support of local news outlets

August 15, 2020 by  
Filed under Featured Articles

Sacramento, CA – On Monday August 10, 2010 Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio (D- Baldwin Park) announced the introduction of Assembly Bill 323 (AB323), the Save Local Journalism Act.

The bill is aimed at strengthening community news organizations across the state while protecting their ability to provide all Californians with important information about news and events in their communities.

Never in modern history has there been a greater need for minority-owned and other community media outlets to be a viable and reliable source of information for their readers, and yet never have they been at greater risk of closure. AB 323 offers a much needed lifeline to these small news outlets.

AB 323 will direct state departments and agencies to place marketing and outreach advertising in community and ethnic news outlets. The measure will also extend the sunset date for the exemption for newspaper carriers from the ABC test to give ethnic, mid-size, and daily newspapers two additional years to comply with AB 5.

AB 5 was enacted last year in response to the Supreme Court ruling in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles. The ABC test consists of three-parts and an employer must answer yes to all three parts before they can qualify a worker as a contractor.

Although AB 5 was designed to protect employees from being misclassified as independent contractors, it posed a challenge to most small, independently owned minority/community newspapers who depended on the use of independent contractors as writers, photographers, and newspaper carriers.

It also extends the sunset date for the exemption for newspaper carriers from the ABC test to give ethnic, mid-size, and daily newspapers two additional years to comply with AB 5.

Commenting on the important role of the press Assemblywoman Rubio declared, “Our free media – one of our most cherished Constitutional rights – is at risk of extinction. At a time when local information is critical for our communities and the rebuilding of our economy. AB 323 will prevent ‘news deserts’ by providing a lifeline to California’s community and ethnic media outlets.”

Since the pandemic hit, California newspapers have experienced declines in about half their average print advertising revenue. More than a dozen California papers have suspended operations or closed in the last six months, and many others have laid off newsroom staff and other employees. According to a recent study, “An Analysis of the Financial Crisis Facing California Local, Daily Newspapers,” California newspapers face increases of 85 percent in distribution costs related to AB 5.

Speaking about the legislative determinations Assemblymembers make on an ongoing basis, Rubio continued, “[W]e must strike a balance between commitment to policy goals and minimizing negative consequences. Local journalism cannot be sacrificed in that process.”

Rubio shared how last year the legislature passed AB 170 which granted newspapers an additional year to comply with AB 5.

“And now,” she explained, “given the impact of COVID on the news industry, AB 323 simply provides additional time for newspapers to stabilize operations and pursue alternate distribution models.”

The good news is, prioritizing ethnic and community newspapers for state advertising campaigns would not require new allocations in the state budget. And, it will be a win-win for the state as it will ensure more Californians, including those in hard-to-reach communities, are reached with important messages, furthering the state’s public health and safety goals.

Rubio’s legislation was well received by community media outlets.

“We applaud Assemblywoman Rubio for working to stabilize our state’s ethnic media at one of the most important periods in history,” said Gabriel Lerner, Editorial Director, La Opinión. “Ethnic media has a different and specific role than mainstream media. Many marginalized and vulnerable communities in California rely on us as their trusted messengers. AB 323 will preserve that communication.”

“Americans often take our free media for granted, assuming it will always be there to serve us — and it has been, especially during the pandemic,” said Tracy Hernandez, Founding Chief Executive Officer, Los Angeles County Business Federation. “But their economic crisis reminds us that just as any other Main Street company, newspapers must also keep the lights on and the doors open.”

The Save Local Journalism Act is supported by dozens of free speech, media, ethnic community, and business organizations throughout the state, including the California News Publishers Association, Latino Media Collaborative, California Black Media, Ethnic Media Services, Asian American Journalists Association of San Diego, Asian Business Association of San Diego, Bay Area Council, Californians Aware, California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Council of Mexican Federations in North America (COFEM), Empowering Pacific Islanders Communities (EPIC), Fresno Business Council, First Amendment Coalition, Inland Empire Economic Partnership, Los Angeles County Business Federation (BizFed), Orange County Business Council, Pan Valley Institute, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Sacramento LGBT Community Center, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Society of Professional Journalists – NorCal, Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP), Valley Industry & Commerce Association (VICA), William C. Velasquez Institute, and W. Haywood Burns Institute.

Header Photo: Assemblymember Blanca Rubio 48th Assembly District asddressing the State Assembly (Photo courtesy a48.asmdc.org)

? California Census Officials ask Californians to Respond This WeekMaking History: Joe Biden Taps California Senator Kamala Harris for Vice President ?

Court Rules in Favor of California: Uber and Lyft Drivers are Employees

August 14, 2020 by  
Filed under Featured Articles, Front Page

Quinci LeGardye, California Black Media 

Statewide — On Aug. 10, a California Superior Court judge ruled that rideshare companies Uber and Lyft must change the classification of their drivers from independent contractors to employees.

The ruling was a major victory for California lawmakers in their yearlong struggle to enforce AB 5, the controversial worker classification bill that went into effect Jan. 1.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman ruled in favor of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s argument that Uber and Lyft are violating AB 5, which says workers can only be considered independent contractors if they perform duties outside the usual course of a company’s business.

“The court has weighed in and agreed: Uber and Lyft need to put a?stop to unlawful misclassification of their drivers while our litigation continues,”?said Becerra.?“While this fight still has a long way to go, we’re pushing ahead to make sure the people of California get the workplace protections they deserve. Our state and workers shouldn’t have to foot the bill when big businesses try to skip out on their responsibilities. We’re going to keep working to make sure Uber and Lyft play by the rules.”

Schulman paused the injunction for 10 days to give the companies a chance to appeal the decision. Both companies made statements Aug. 9 saying that they will appeal the ruling.

An Uber spokesperson said, “The vast majority of drivers want to work independently, and we’ve already made significant changes to our app to ensure that remains the case under California law. When over 3 million Californians are without a job, our elected leaders should be focused on creating work, not trying to shut down an entire industry during an economic depression.”

“Ultimately, we believe this issue will be decided by California voters and that they will side with drivers,” Lyft said, referring to Prop 22, the upcoming ballot measure. Voters will decide Nov. 3 if rideshare drivers in California can remain contractors or if they have to become W-2 employees;  

Becerra, along with the City Attorneys of San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, filed their worker misclassification lawsuit against Uber and Lyft on May 5, followed by the motion for a preliminary injunction on June 24.

“This is a resounding victory for thousands of?Uber?and Lyft drivers who are working hard — and, in this pandemic, incurring risk every day — to provide for their families,”?said Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer.??”Of course, our fight is not over and we will vigorously pursue this litigation until these workers have the permanent protection they?deserve.”??

“Misclassification hurts drivers and it puts the burden on taxpayers to pay for benefits that Uber and Lyft should be providing,”?said San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera.?“These companies have pocketed millions of dollars by leaving taxpayers to foot the bill. That’s unacceptable. During this global pandemic, it’s even more important for drivers to get access to protections like unemployment insurance. There is no rule that prevents these drivers from continuing to have all of the flexibility they currently enjoy. Being properly classified as an employee doesn’t change that.”

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