In summary

Tensions between protesters and police remain high in California. Protesters share their stories. Legislature tells ethics panel to back off.

Good morning, California. It’s Friday, June 5.

Reforms could be on the way

A police officer watches the crowd from behind a gas mask during a demonstration on May 29 in downtown Oakland. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

As California heads into its second weekend of protests following the death of George Floyd, many cities have revoked their curfews after a string of relatively calm nights. But tensions are just beginning to heat up in other parts of the state — particularly in Vallejo, where police fatally shot Sean Monterrosa, a 22-year-old Latino man allegedly looting a Walgreens, early Tuesday morning.

The Vallejo Police Department didn’t publicly announce the death until Wednesday afternoon, after 50 National Guard troops had already been deployed in the city — reigniting concerns about police accountability. The shooting is now under investigation.

The news comes amid heightened scrutiny of police officers’ tactics during protests, including driving cars into crowds of protesters, shooting foam rounds and deploying pepper balls. Some of these incidents are under investigation. Police officers have also been injured by protesters, and a federal officer was fatally shot in Oakland last weekend.

On Thursday, a group of Democratic lawmakers said they plan to introduce legislation setting clear standards for when police can use rubber bullets.

  • Assemblymember Ash Kalra, a San Jose Democrat: “Rubber bullets should not be used to suppress freedom of assembly, peaceful protest, or to facilitate curfews and disperse people demonstrating.”

Meanwhile, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday he plans to cut up to $150 million from the city’s police department and reinvest it in services supporting the black community. He had originally proposed a 7% spending increase for the LAPD.

Thursday, state Sens. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat, and Lena Gonzalez, a Long Beach Democrat, pledged to donate campaign contributions from law enforcement unions to nonprofits serving people of color and to stop accepting their donations moving forward.

For more on California’s attempts to reduce police shootings, check out the award-winning podcast Force of Law from CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall.

______________

The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Thursday night, California had 119,807 confirmed coronavirus cases and 4,298 deaths from the virus, according to a CalMatters tracker.

Also: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. And we’re tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

Other stories you should know

1. Inside the different messages and motivations of protests across CA

Eddie Wutangsy chants to a crowd of several thousand protesters as they march past Fresno Police headquarters on May 31. Photo by John Walker, The Fresno Bee

Protests have sprung up all across California over the past week, each a product of unique local circumstances. Each protester has their own motivations, their own methods and their own issues and history with their police force and city. To better understand the vast array of experiences motivating thousands of Californians from all walks of life to protest in the streets, CalMatters talked with protesters in Los Angeles, Merced, Fresno, Sacramento and Salinas. Here’s what we heard, saw and learned.

  • Katrina Ruiz, a Los Banos resident: “We have a president whose rhetoric perpetuates stereotypes against people of color. We have this pandemic, and the response to the pandemic was atrocious. It has gotten increasingly worse to be a black person in the last four years because of who we have in office. People are just outraged, and they don’t know what to do.”

2. Nothing to see here, Legislature tells state ethics panel

Illustration by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters; elements via iStock

The California Legislature had a message Thursday for the state’s political ethics watchdog agency as it considers changing rules that allow lawmakers to raise millions of dollars for nonprofits they control: Back off.

The rules that govern “behested payments” — the term for when a politician solicits donations for an organization — “work well and are not in need of major adjustments,” Lance Olson, an attorney for the Legislature, wrote in a letter to the Fair Political Practices Commission. 

The letter also notes that while the FPPC can change rules regarding California’s political ethics law, it can’t change the law itself: “That remains the role of the Legislature and Governor.”

The ethics panel is considering changes following CalMatters’ reporting earlier this year that showed a surge in the amount of money politicians are raising for nonprofits they or their staff control. Though legal, the practice allows politicians to raise and spend money outside the limits set by campaign finance law. 

CalMatters found that:

3. Construction union helps squash housing development bills

Photo via iStock

Several bills aimed at making it easier to build more market-rate housing in California died yesterday at the hands of a powerful Assembly committee. They included:

  • A bill to streamline development of “missing middle” housing — starter homes marketed to middle-class families — part of a housing package Newsom and other lawmakers pledged to deliver this year.
  • A proposal led by the landlord lobby to make it easier to convert hotels and motels to multifamily apartment complexes.

What likely sealed the bills’ demise was opposition from the State Building and Construction Trades Council, an influential union that often resists legislation that makes it easier to build new housing unless it includes certain labor protections loathed by developers.

CalMatters commentary

Policing police contributions: If the idea of banning endorsements and contributions from police unions, or any public union, moves forward, there will be major obstacles, argues Joel Fox, publisher of foxandhoundsdaily.com on California politics.

A just and equitable recovery: Racism is at the foundation of every political issue in our country. We need to build a California where the most vulnerable communities can thrive, write Sonrisa Cooper of the Greenlining Institute and Sylvia Chi of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network.

How to build affordable homes? The state can begin by fixing zoning, curbing the abuses of legacy environmental laws and lowering mandatory fees, argues Maureen Sedonaen, CEO of Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco.

Easy decision to vote against Prop. 13 amendment: The initiative will result in higher prices for everyone and cause businesses to close, argues Robert Rivinius, executive director of the Family Business Association of California.

Big plans for microgrids: By using locally generated clean power from microgrids, California could reduce its reliance on expensive long-distance transmission infrastructure, write Steve Weissman of UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy and Barry Vesser, COO of the Climate Center.

Other things worth your time

Newsom says he would reject President Donald Trump’s attempt to send U.S. military into California. // Politico

Sacramento’s Stevante Clark, whose brother was fatally shot by police in 2018, emerges as leader amid protests. // Los Angeles Times

Over 5,000 Californians file COVID-19 workers’ comp claims. // CalMatters

No jobs, no tests, no savings: Southeast LA County hit hard by pandemic. // CalMatters

Amid $54 billion deficit, Newsom requests $13 million to manage volunteers who want to help the state respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. // Sacramento Bee

Podcast: The future of work and the education-to-employment pipeline. // CalMatters

Lawmakers look for new ways to pay for broadband in rural California — it could end up as a bond proposal on the November ballot. // EdSource

Stanford University will start a week early, and most classes will be online. // Mercury News

_____

See you Monday.

Tips, insight or feedback? Email emily@calmatters.org.

Follow me on Twitter: @emily_hoeven

Subscribe to CalMatters newsletters here.

Follow CalMatters on Facebook and Twitter.

CalMatters is now available in Spanish on TwitterFacebook and RSS.

We want to hear from you

Want to submit a guest commentary or reaction to an article we wrote? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Gary Reed with any commentary questions: gary@calmatters.org, (916) 234-3081.

Emily Hoeven writes the daily WhatMatters newsletter for CalMatters. Her reporting, essays, and opinion columns have been published in San Francisco Weekly, the Deseret News, the San Francisco Business...