Homelessness is rising as a political issue, a Public Policy Institute of California poll shows.

In summary

For the first time, California voters are ranking homelessness as the state’s most pressing issue,

Good morning, California.

“These are blatant threats. We need a civil society, not a civil war.”—Sen. Kamala Harris, calling on Twitter Chairman Jack Dorsey to ban Donald Trump from the platform.

  • Harris cited numerous threatening presidential tweets, including one suggesting Congressman Adam Schiff, a Burbank Democrat who’s leading the impeachment inquiry, be “questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason.”
  • The San Francisco-based Twitter promised an answer.
  • Trump has 65.1 million Twitter followers.

Homelessness rises as an issue

A homeless man napped in downtown Sacramento earlier this year.

For the first time, California voters are ranking homelessness as the state’s most pressing issue, and a majority have turned pessimistic about the state’s direction, a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California shows.

The poll found 16% of likely voters view homelessness as the top issue, and 24% of voters in L.A. view it as such, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports.

Although the percentages were relatively small, homelessness ranked above other issues including the economy, education, immigration and crime.

PPIC President Mark Baldassare said homelessness had never been in double digits, dating to the start of the survey 20 years ago. Few past surveys listed homelessness because so few voters mentioned it.

  • Baldassare: “People are feeling a great sense of unease.”

Combined, 40% of voters and 51% of Democrats list the three most concerning issues as homelessness, jobs and the economy, and housing costs and availability.

  • In the Bay Area, housing costs and availability was listed as the most pressing issue by 24% of voters, followed by jobs and the economy at 15%.

Most voters, 54%, believe California is headed in the wrong direction. That’s a turnaround from January, when 51% of voters believed the state was headed in the right direction, and the lowest since May 2015.

The partisan divide is striking on several issues, but none more so than immigration:

  • 88% Democratic voters see immigrants as positive.
  • 58% of Republican voters see immigrants as a burden.

Seeking to help the mentally ill

San Francisco Mayor London Breed.

Local authorities gained slightly more power to seek court-ordered conservatorships of the city’s most seriously mentally ill people, under legislation signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday.

In San Francisco, the measure would apply to perhaps 50-100 individuals, allowing authorities to ensure the individuals receive some care. 

San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego counties are eligible for the pilot project, which was authored by Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat. The measure seeks to streamline similar legislation from 2018.

To become subject to the temporary and involuntary conservatorship, individuals would need to have been detained eight times in a year because they are deemed to be a danger to themselves or others. The process is known as being “5150-ed,” a reference to the Welfare and Institutions Code section that sets out grounds for detention.

Civil libertarians opposed the measure, contending it would deprive people of their civil rights. San Francisco Mayor London Breed was among its champions.

What’s polluting our waterways

San Francisco Bay

An estimated 7.2 trillion tiny pieces of plastic flow into San Francisco Bay each year, and much of it comes from a surprising source: tires, a three-year study led by the San Francisco Estuary Institute released Wednesday shows.

What the Mercury News’ Paul Rogers called “toxic confetti” includes fragments, dust and fibers from polyester, cigarette butts, diapers, packaging, and a black rubbery material considered to be a plastic that apparently comes from tires.

  • The study: “In total, these black fragments with rubbery texture comprised 48% of the entire dataset.” 

The L.A. Times quoted Mark Gold, the state’s deputy secretary for ocean and coastal policy: 

  • “I’m so used to thinking of the toxics that come from urban runoff and not the actual physical particles from something like tire dust. But the sheer number of particles … the scope and scale of this problem makes you realize that this is something that’s definitely worth looking at a great deal more seriously.”

Legislation to reduce single-use plastic packaging by 75% by 2030 stalled this year, as CalMatters’ Rachel Becker reported.

Expect this study to help inform the debate when lawmakers return in January, and perhaps add a focus on black rubbery pollutants.

Redistricting procrastination

Redistricting commissioner Stan Forbes, in his Sacramento bookstore, the Avid reader. Photo by Anne Wernikoff / CalMatters.

California urges other states to let citizens, not politicians, draw district maps. But California is having a bit of trouble attracting a diverse and qualified pool of citizens willing to do the job, CalMatters Elizabeth Castillo reports.

The problem: This year’s applicant pool for the independent citizens commission that will draw legislative and congressional district lines for the coming decade is relatively small, and skews white and male.

More than 17,000 Californians submitted applications and were considered tentatively eligible to be a part of the 2020 anti-gerrymandering squad. 

But only 400 people have completed their final applications, which includes essay questions and letters of recommendation.

The state has twice extended the deadline. They’re now due on Oct. 13.

Stan Forbes, a 2010 commissioner who has traveled to other states to talk about how California’s effort is working, says not to worry:

  • “If you have a paper due in college, how many people turned it in early? Nobody. So when it gets to be two days before the deadline, then I might get more nervous, but at this point, it’s just human nature.”

What’s next: From the final applicant pool culled by a panel of auditors, State Auditor Elaine Howle will randomly select eight commissioners by July 5, 2020. Then those eight will choose six more. 

To learn more about California’s anti-gerrymandering squad, please click here

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

Take a number: 100

Lake Cachuma, Photo from Santa Barbara County Parks Department

In a debate that dates to the 1990s, the California Water Resources Control Board is calling on the U.S Bureau of Reclamation to release more water from Lake Cachuma, a reservoir that provides water for 200,000 people in Santa Barbara County, to help the fishery in the Santa Inez River.

  • The river once produced 20,000-30,000 steelhead trout, but that was before Bradbury Dam was built. 
  • Now, perhaps 100 a year return to the river to spawn.

In recent testimony and in a letter to the state, a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation official questioned the state’s authority to impose conditions on the feds.

Separately, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced this week it would delay plans to pull more water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to San Joaquin Valley farms.

Commentary at CalMatters

LaVarne Burton, American Kidney Fund: For 22 years, the neediest patients in California have turned to the American Kidney Fund for help. If Gov. Gavin Newsom signs AB 290, the American Kidney Fund will end our program for the 3,700 dialysis and transplant patients we help in California and all those who might need our assistance in the future.

Monte Ward, Hollister Ranch Owners Association: For years, the state of California has wanted to expand public access to the beaches at Hollister Ranch in Santa Barbara County. The state has been unsuccessful, some claim, because rich property owners have thwarted the will of the people This is nonsense.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: California unions scored big wins in the Legislature this year, hoping to arrest declining union membership in the state.


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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.