In summary

Homelessness hits African-Americans hard. Christian group receives federal funds to preach abstinence. Tom Steyer takes shot at White House.

Good morning, California.

A new U.S. Supreme Court session opens today with cases involving gun and abortion rights, and whether federal law protects gay and transgender people from being fired. 

  • California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has filed or signed onto briefs in several cases.
  • The University of California is named in a case set for hearing in November challenging the Trump administration’s effort to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA protects from deportation people who were brought to this country as children by parents who are undocumented immigrants.

Homelessness among black people

A Monterey County homeless encampment

In Monterey County, the percentage of black or African-American people who are homeless is more than seven times higher than their share of the county’s total population.

Statewide, it is nearly six times higher, Kate Cimini of The Californian in Salinas reports, for the California Divide, a CalMatters collaboration examining income inequality in California.

  • The L.A. Homeless Services Authority recently reported: “The impact of institutional and structural racism in education, criminal justice, housing, employment, health care and access to opportunities cannot be denied: homelessness is a by-product of racism in America.”

Another possible reason: The overhaul of the state prison system, which has driven down the number of incarcerated people from a high of 176,000 to 125,116 in the most recent count.

Steve Berg, of the National Alliance to End Homelessness:

  • “People who come out of prison and become homeless are far more likely to go back to prison than people who come out of prison and don’t become homeless. The large racial disparities in the corrections system are both a cause and effect of disparities in homelessness.”

A combination: Felony records, stagnant wages and a growing housing crisis, combined with policies that exclude or punish marginalized groups, can ensnare black people in homelessness.

To read Cimini’s full report, please click here.

Tax dollars, abstinence and STD

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the spirochete bacterium.

Obria Medical Clinics, a Christian organization in Irvine, doesn’t offer condoms to halt the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, Kaiser Health News’ Sarah Varney reports.

Nor does Obria provide birth control beyond teaching women to know when they are fertile and counseling them to practice restraint.

For the first time, Obria is receiving federal Title X family-planning funds— $1.7 million, Varney reports.

Obria’s receipt of Title X funds comes as the Trump administration bars the money from going to women’s health clinics that provide abortion services. Because of that restriction, such groups as Planned Parenthood are rejecting the federal funds.

  • Kaiser quoted Kathleen Bravo, Obria’s chief executive officer: “By reducing sexual risk, you would have less women getting sick with STDs and cancer and pregnancies. In other words, teach them to not even go down that path.”
  • Kaiser: “Sexual health educators, tasked with reversing four straight years of record levels of gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis across the nation, regard Obria’s prohibition against condoms as reckless and dismiss its focus on abstinence as wishful thinking.”

Meanwhile: California’s Department of Public Health has not released 2018 data on sexually transmitted disease. But between 2016 and 2017, the department reported the rates of:

  • Chlamydia increased 9%.
  • Gonorrhea increased 16%
  • Syphilis increased 21%.
  • Congenital syphilis, or babies born with the preventable disease, increased 32%. 

Tom Steyer takes his shot

Democratic presidential candidate and businessman Tom Steyer waits to speak at the Des Moines Register Soapbox during a visit to the Iowa State Fair. AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
Democratic presidential candidate and businessman Tom Steyer

America will get a look at San Francisco billionaire and Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer when he makes his debut on the debate stage next week. CalMatters’ Ben Christoper provides a preview by way of a primer on Steyer’s gilded resume and what it might tell us about his long-shot presidential campaign.

Steyer is the retired founder of the San Francisco-based Farallon Capital Management hedge fund. That makes him an unlikely choice for many Democrats.

But he has used his wealth to combat climate change, fund an anti-smoking initiative, register voters, align himself with organized labor, promote Democrats for U.S. Senate and House seats, and advocate for student loan relief. 

  • Steyer’s older brother, Jim, founder of Common Sense Media: “He’s put his money into what he believes in — in a genuine way. He’s not about his own political advancement.”

Money matters: 

  • Since 2007, Steyer has spent more than $63 million on California state races and causes.
  • In 2014 and 2016, Steyer was the largest contributor of publicly disclosed campaign cash. In 2018, he came in second.
  • For his presidential campaign, he says he is ready to spend $100 million “at least.”

President Trump’s judges

Federal judges are overwhelmingly white and male.

White men dominate the ranks of federal judges, and President Donald Trump has nominated fewer women and ethnic minorities to judgeships than any president in three decades, the liberal Center for American Progress reports.

As it is, the report says, 80% of federal judges are white, and 73% are men:

  • “This has real consequences for historically underrepresented litigants and parties who may not receive fair or even-handed rulings due to inherent biases among judges.”

Trump, who ran on a promise to reshape the federal judiciary, has nominated nearly 200 judges, and 150 have been confirmed. There are 860 federal judges.

  • 40 of Trump’s nominees await Senate confirmation, including five in California. There are 10 other vacancies on U.S. district courts in California
  • 86% of Trump’s nominees are white, and 21.5% are women.
  • 36% of President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees were people of color, and 42% were women.

The San Francisco Chronicle, quoting the report: “[Di]versifying the federal bench is not just a task for the president and Congress but requires making both law schools and the legal profession more inclusive.”

Latest in vaping disease outbreak

More than 100 Californians have been hospitalized with a vaping disease.

State investigators seized “thousands” of cannabis vaping cartridges last week from a Northridge marijuana-manufacturing facility, as authorities try to find the source of a vaping disease outbreak.

The online publication Leafly quoted Bureau of Cannabis Control spokesman Alex Traverso:

  • “Investigators confiscated thousands of illegal vape carts worth millions of dollars.” The investigation is ongoing.

Earlier, the bureau seized thousands of illegal vape cartridges at the Stuffed Pipe Smoke Shop in Fresno’s Tower District.

  • CDC: “Most patients report a history of using THC-containing products.”

Commentary at CalMatters

Steve Swatt and Susie Swatt, authors: By late 1958, a handful of fed-up Beverly Hills moms–many with husbands in the entertainment industry–had had enough. Savvy in the ways of publicity, the women campaigned against smog. Sixty years later, the Trump administration threatens to reverse many of the anti-pollution gains that these women fought so hard to enact.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: Government regulation is supposed to protect the public, but it also spawns political maneuvering by economic interests.


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Dan Morain joined CalMatters in March 2018. He is the former editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee. Morain also spent 27 years at The Los Angeles Times, and has covered the Capitol since 1992.