CalMatters is dedicated to explaining how state government impacts our lives. Your support helps us produce journalism that makes a difference. Donate now.
California Democrats have a message for Republicans hoping to capitalize on voter concerns about rising crime ahead of the 2022 elections: We care about victims, too.
On Wednesday, Attorney General Rob Bonta and three Democratic state senators joined advocates from the national network Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, plus relatives of Oscar Grant and Sean Monterrosa — both of whom were killed by police — in urging the state to increase its investments in crime prevention, trauma recovery and victim compensation and ensure those services reach marginalized communities.
- Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice: “A lot of their counterparts in the government don’t seem to agree that people who have been victims of police violence or their surviving family members deserve help when they lose a loved one. Or that … someone at some point in their life who may have committed a crime is not deserving … of getting help and access to treatment and mental health.”
Lawmakers also announced a series of bills to help victims, though some have yet to be fully fleshed out. For example, a proposal from state Sen. Nancy Skinner of Berkeley reads in its entirety: “It is the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation that would modernize and reform the California Victim Compensation Board to further serve the needs of victims.”
- Other bills have “languished” in the Legislature, in the words of state Sen. Connie Levya of Chino. Her bill to expand eligibility for California’s victim compensation program to serious bodily injury or death caused by a law enforcement officer’s use of force passed out of the Senate last year but has yet to make it out of the Assembly.
Bonta, meanwhile, said that the California Department of Justice has “expanded and beefed up” its victims services unit. He also announced a new addition to the team: Maggy Krell, whom Bonta’s press office told me started Feb. 18 as a special advisor to the attorney general on survivor policy and advocacy.
- It’s a small world: Krell, a former California deputy attorney general, lost her 2014 bid for Sacramento County district attorney against Anne Marie Schubert — who’s now challenging Bonta for attorney general. As CalMatters data journalist Jeremia Kimelman notes, about $300,000 of the $1.7 million Schubert’s campaign has raised so far is from law enforcement groups, compared to less than $21,000 of the $6.1 million raised by Bonta’s campaign.
- Schubert, meanwhile, wants to remind voters that Bonta endorsed Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón — whose progressive criminal justice policies have sparked so much controversy that nearly 98% of his deputy prosecutors voted this week to back an attempt to recall him from office.
In the latest instance of Democrats embracing a tougher-on-crime approach, Gascón last week backtracked on two signature policies, allowing his office to prosecute some juveniles as adults and seek life sentences against defendants in certain cases. Prosecutors have already filed a motion to try as an adult a defendant who, at the age of 17, fatally shot two sisters and set fire to their house.
- Gascón isn’t the only Southern California DA under fire: Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer has lost a slew of reelection endorsements in recent days after allegedly making racist comments about a Black murder defendant. He’s also facing scrutiny for saying the N-word in a 2019 speech quoting slurs hurled by a white supremacist during a hate crime and for his approach to an ongoing attempted murder case against a Black activist.
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 8,343,213 confirmed cases (+0.1% from previous day) and 83,569 deaths (+0.1% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.
Other stories you should know
1. SF faces own crime conundrum
San Francisco leaders are also divided over how to best respond to the city’s intertwined crime, homelessness and drug-overdose epidemics, which were highlighted by a pair of Tuesday San Francisco Chronicle headlines:
- Family of 16-year-old found dead in S.F. alley searching for answers as police investigate ‘possible overdose’
- S.F. Tenderloin ambassador meant to keep streets safe shot outside Civic Center homeless sleeping site
Mayor London Breed, who recently declared a state of emergency in the Tenderloin and denounced “the reign of criminals who are destroying our city,” suggested in an interview with the Washington Post that California Democrats’ crime and drug policies haven’t been prioritizing the right people.
- Breed: “All you heard during the emergency declaration hearings were people complaining about how we were treating those addicted to drugs, right? And I was wondering: What about the people who live there, who are not addicted to drugs? What about the people who work there? What about the people who have been suffering for the longest with all of this? Where are their advocates? Why do they not have advocates?”
- One high-profile opponent of Breed’s emergency declaration: District Attorney Chesa Boudin, the progressive prosecutor facing a recall election in June.
In other San Francisco news: State and city officials on Wednesday announced a key deal in a battle between Boudin’s office and the San Francisco police department over prosecuting police use-of-force cases: The two parties’ MOU will be extended through May 20 and an independent mediator will review any disputes. Also, San Francisco police said they would stop using rape victims’ DNA to investigate crimes.
2. Schools defy state mask mandate
Some school districts aren’t waiting to see what changes Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration might announce Monday to the statewide school mask mandate. The Rancho Santa Fe School District in San Diego County voted this week to make masks optional for students, joining other school districts in Placer, Tuolumne and El Dorado counties that have also stopped enforcing mask rules — a move that could put them at financial and legal risk.
- John Becker, superintendent of Roseville Joint Union High School District in Placer County: “We are not entirely sure on what the consequences will be at this point given the mask policy from California Department of Public Health is likely going to change soon.”
Other California COVID updates:
- Los Angeles County health officials announced Wednesday that fully vaccinated residents starting Friday can go maskless in indoor establishments that check customer inoculation status.
- Also Wednesday, a small convoy of truckers calling for an end to COVID mandates began a cross-country drive from Adelanto, California to Washington, D.C., where they are expected to arrive March 5.
- And on Tuesday, San Diego Unified became the latest district to delay — again — enforcement of its student COVID vaccine mandate until next school year.
3. California climate updates
Wednesday brought rain, wind, snow and freeze to California — and a trifecta of not-so-good climate news.
- Most of the farms that get water from the federally managed Central Valley Project will likely receive 0% of their allocation this year, according to initial estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation — and most cities and towns will get just 25% of what they asked for. It’s the latest sign that California’s persistent drought will likely extend into its third year. “Last year was a very bad year. This year could turn out to be worse,” said Ernest Conant, the bureau’s regional director.
- Just 59% of California’s electricity came from renewable and zero-carbon sources in 2020 — down from 64% in 2019, according to new data from the California Energy Commission. The reason for the decrease? A decline in hydroelectric power due to severe drought — as well as pandemic delays to new renewable energy projects. Still, the commission said, California remains ahead of its clean electricity goals.
- California’s key climate change strategy is flawed, according to data that a panel of experts shared — again — with state lawmakers, CalMatters’ Julie Cart reports. Indeed, the structure of the state’s carbon market poses “a very real risk” that California won’t meet its next set of carbon reduction goals, said Ross Brown of the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office. The Newsom administration, however, said it “won’t be taking urgent action to simply change things.”
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California doesn’t need a blue-ribbon commission on water bureaucracy. It needs decisive action to deal with the state’s growing water crisis.
Byzantine water laws leave Californians high and dry: Here are some recommendations to finally bring the state’s water rights system into the 21st century, write Richard Frank and Holly Doremus, who teach water law at the UC Davis and UC Berkeley Schools of Law, respectively.
To reduce inequality, listen to Black women: If we want to dismantle intersecting forms of oppression in California and beyond, we must center Black women’s wisdom and experience, argues Mia Kirsten Santos, an undergraduate student at UC Davis.
Other things worth your time
Will Steve Jobs’ heir run for Nancy Pelosi’s seat? // Puck.news
Takeaways from the Los Angeles mayoral debate. // Los Angeles Times
Oakland police department moves closer to end of federal oversight after nearly two decades under watch. // San Francisco Chronicle
Fresno Police Chief on misconceptions about policing. // Los Angeles Times
More Bay Area officers are being prosecuted for killing people. // KQED
Stockton: 6 people shot to death in 8 days. // KRON4
California gives people leaving prison just $200 to start over. After 50 years, that could change. // The Guardian
Poll: Californians lean toward legal sports betting. // Los Angeles Times
City’s $1.2-billion homelessness measure may not be enough, audit finds. // Los Angeles Times
CalPERS double-dip audit came 5 years after whistleblower. // Sacramento Bee
Fewer California public employees retired last year after spike in 2020, CalPERS data show. // Sacramento Bee
Interest in district-subsidized teacher housing in California intensifies. // EdSource
What returning to work means in the nail salons of Orange County. // New Yorker
Silicon Valley is coming for your chocolate. // The Atlantic
Over 40% of West Coast tech job listings are outside the West Coast. // Bloomberg
Supervisor Jim Desmond calls on governor to relieve soaring electric rates. // San Diego Union-Tribune
Biden and Newsom want to secure a domestic supply chain for critical minerals. // Los Angeles Times
After years of pollution violations, Tesla is fined $275,000 by the EPA. // Los Angeles Times
Vets worry polluted California base made them ill. // Associated Press
California adopts plan to tackle microplastic pollution — first state to do so. // San Francisco Chronicle
This family lost their land to a California state park. // National Geographic
See you tomorrow.
Tips, insight or feedback? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow me on Twitter: @emily_hoeven
Subscribe to CalMatters newsletters here.