Another police shooting, another haunting video
Last Friday, the Memphis Police Department released its videos of the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols, prompting an outpouring of protest, grief and commemoration across the country, including in California where Nichols spent much of his life.
One day earlier — and initially receiving little public notice — Anthony Lowe Jr., a 36-year-old Black man whose legs had both been amputated at the knee, was killed by police in southeast Los Angeles County.
Only this week — with the circulation of a grainy 23-second video, taken by a passerby, of the moments leading up to the shooting — is Lowe’s death getting more attention from the press, with activists demanding justice.
What we know so far, from the reporting of LAist and others:
- Police officers in Huntington Park responded to reports of one man in a wheelchair stabbing another and found Lowe in an agitated state, holding a butcher knife.
- The officers were not required to wear body-worn cameras, but a passerby captured footage of the standoff, in which Lowe leaves his wheelchair and stumbles away on his knees.
- Officers reportedly shot Lowe dead moments after the footage ends.
At a Monday press conference, members of Lowe’s family said that he was experiencing a mental health crisis and insisted the police did not need to resort to lethal force.
- Ellakenyada Gorum, Lowe’s cousin: “You guys knew your lives wasn’t in danger. He’s running on his limbs. How cold-hearted could they be?”
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is investigating. If there is an outside investigation, it probably won’t come from the state Department of Justice Department’s police shooting teams, CalMatters’ justice reporter Nigel Duara explains:
The department is required under a 2021 state law to investigate when unarmed citizens are killed by police officers. The department isn’t always quick to act, and it has declined to investigate some incidents referred to it at all.
But in this case, the law likely doesn’t apply. No matter his limited mobility, Lowe appears to have been armed with the 12-inch butcher knife.
The Huntington Park Police Department told KABC-TV in a statement that its officers twice used a stun gun on Lowe, who “tried” throwing the knife at officers before they fired.
In California, a law enforcement officer is only allowed to use lethal force when its deemed “necessary in defense of human life.”
When police killings make the news, it’s often because a camera, either in the hands of a vigilant bystander or attached to an officer’s body, records the violent death. Is it incumbent upon a responsible citizen to watch?
It’s a complicated question and not everyone comes to the same answer:
- New York Times film critic A.O. Scott: “A delicate ethical line separates witness — an active, morally engaged state of attention — from the more passive, less demanding condition of spectatorship.”
- Julie Scelfo, executive director of Get Media Savvy: “Unless your work requires otherwise…look away.”
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Other Stories You Should Know
1 Fixing California elections
Maybe you’ve forgotten 2021’s unsuccessful recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom.
State Sen. Josh Newman hasn’t.
On Monday, the Brea Democrat introduced an amendment to the state constitution to revamp how California voters can eject an elected official.
Though nearly two thirds of California voters rejected the effort to oust Newsom, many Democrats were troubled by the idiosyncrasies of the recall system and began calling for change. Specifically, they raised concerns about the California’s unique two-question process:
- First, voters decide whether they support the recall or not.
- If a majority vote “yes,” the candidate on the replacement list who receives the most votes wins.
- The person being recalled can’t run.
That raises the head-scratching possibility that an elected official could get the ax by losing narrowly on the first question, only to be replaced by a candidate who, in a crowded field, receives a fraction of the vote.
Newman knows a little something about that: In 2016, he was recalled from his Senate seat. Though 42% voted to keep him, Republican Ling Ling Chang won with only 34% among the replacement candidates.
Newman’s new proposal would do away with the second question. If any state official other than the governor is recalled, then they’re replaced in a special election or in the next regular one. In either case, the jettisoned pol can run.
If the governor is recalled, Newman’s proposal names the lieutenant governor as the automatic successor.
To change the state constitution, the bill first needs to be approved by two-thirds of both the Assembly and Senate. Then it goes on the 2024 ballot. Newman introduced a nearly identical proposal early last year, but it didn’t go anywhere.
The reason: Politics.
- Newman: “The assessment at the time was that turnout in a midterm vote was likely to be lower and less broad-based than in the coming presidential election cycle.”
Now this local election update by CalMatters political reporter Sameea Kamal:
Local redistricting needs more independent commissions.
That’s the conclusion reached by a coalition that monitored 100 local map drawings after the 2020 Census to account for population changes and ensure equal representation.
The report released Tuesday was commissioned by Common Cause California, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, the League of Women Voters and the ACLU of Southern and Northern California — the same groups that sponsored the 2019 Fair Maps Act, which set stricter rules for mapping and public input in local redistricting.
The coalition said it found problems with the law and its implementation:
- It’s unclear whether incumbency can be considered, an uncertainty exploited by lawmakers;
- It doesn’t apply to school districts and special districts;
- Local governments often failed to conduct proper public outreach;
- Many cities and counties had “advisory” redistricting commissions, whose members often protected the officials who appointed them.
So what are the fixes? The report recommends extending the Fair Maps Act to all elected boards, increasing the number of public hearings and prohibiting elected officials from appointing redistricting commissions.
- The report: “Instead of a tool for empowerment, local redistricting too often has been used by incumbents … to entrench their power, advance one political party or faction over another, or stop or limit the ability of growing communities of color from electing their own representatives to office.”
Also today, the Public Policy Institute of California looked at redistricting and its role in the Legislature’s increasing diversity.
2 Tuition hike coming to CSU?
From CalMatters higher education reporter Mikhail Zinshteyn: The state spends a lot of money annually on its postsecondary firepower — about $22.5 billion, or 10% of the state general fund.
So it’s no wonder that there are funding disagreements between Gov. Gavin Newsom and the “eyes and ears” of lawmakers, the Legislative Analyst’s Office. The governor’s 2023-24 higher education spending proposals are a mixed bag, the analyst’s office concluded in a 28-page report Tuesday.
According to the LAO:
- What Newsom’s plan does right: It holds off on new programs for higher education and supports the state’s public universities and colleges in their main missions of teaching students.
- Where it falls short: Though he proposes delaying some spending this year and next in response to a $22.5 billion state budget deficit, Newsom’s plans don’t include deep-enough budget cuts or spending pauses in anticipation of estimated annual state budget shortfalls of $9 billion in 2024-25 and 2025-26. Growing state support for the University of California and California State University by 5% also doesn’t help the state’s mid-range budget outlook.
Then there are other issues: Cal State’s new costs will still exceed revenues by more than $100 million next budget year. That’s not a serious worry for the UC because two years ago the system imposed multi-year tuition hikes. The analyst’s office said state leaders and Cal State “could” consider a similar plan, especially given that the system last raised tuition in 2017-18, by a modest 4.9%.
The analyst’s office said a hike could go into effect this fall or next, but after CalMatters asked, Cal State ruled out a tuition hike for fall 2023.
- Cal State spokesperson Michael Uhlenkamp: “There will not be any tuition increase for 2023-24, but at this point there have been no discussions yet related to 2024-25.”
He added that the system has a task force “looking at a sustainable financial model” — including the kind the UC adopted. Most low- and moderate-income students receive state financial aid, which generally picks up the tab for tuition hikes.
Other key LAO conclusions:
- The budget shouldn’t continue funding enrollment growth at the public higher education systems. Preliminary numbers show the UC and community colleges will have flat enrollment while Cal State’s will be down by 5%. Clawing back those funds, approved last year, would save at least $133 million, the analyst’s office calculated.
- Lawmakers should also examine whether any of the $8 billion in new higher-education spending they approved since 2021 — including money for student housing and financial aid — can be partially cut or delayed.
Are you a college student in California, or care about higher education? The CalMatters College Journalism Network wants to hear from you. If you have questions about applications, financial aid, housing, diversity and equity, or anything else, drop us a line and your question could be answered in a CJN column.
3 Odd state out
The seven states that draw on the Colorado River to irrigate their crops and provide drinking water to roughly 40 million people failed to come up with a plan to pare back their water use, blowing past a deadline imposed by the Biden administration — as expected.
The sticking point, it seems, was California.
Though the six other states — Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — laid out a proposal to reduce water use by 38%, representatives from California, home to the biggest users with the most historic and secure water rights, called the plan “inconsistent with the Law of the River,” reports CalMatters’ water reporter Alastair Bland.
Instead, the Imperial Irrigation District and other Southern California water agencies submitted their own plan to reduce their water use by 9% — a far cry from the 15% to 30% cuts sought by federal regulators.
The impasse doesn’t come as a surprise to many water policy experts, who say California water users are biggest beneficiaries of the status quo.
- John Fleck, water policy expert at the University of New Mexico School of Law: “California would prefer to stick with their interpretation of old legal agreements, because they come out on top.”
With a second deadline blown, the big question now is whether the federal government will impose its own water-sharing plan upon the states. The Biden administration is staying silent for now, leaving the Western states to fight amongst themselves.
And they are fighting, as made clear by a joint statement from California’s U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla.
- Padilla and Feinstein: “Six other Western states dictating how much water California must give up simply isn’t a genuine consensus solution — especially coming from states that haven’t offered any new cuts to their own water usage.”
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Three members of California’s congressional delegation are running for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Dianne Feinstein, which touches off a political scramble.
Few California workers report workplace violations due to fear of retaliation, so lawmakers need to educate workers on their rights and reconsider the “at will” employment model, writes Alexandra Suh, co-chairperson of the California Coalition for Worker Power.
Other things worth your time
Q&A: Speaker Rendon on the deficit, gun bills and handing over the gavel // CapRadio
New push to require crypto licenses after Newsom veto // San Francisco Examiner
In San Diego, GOP voters far more likely to die with COVID-19 // Voice of San Diego
Community scrambling after Fresno closes only youth homeless shelter // Fresnoland
Justice Department seeks Tesla documents on automated driving // Associated Press
SF had its worst year for road deaths since “Vision Zero” // San Francisco Standard
L.A. could see nearly 100 new digital signs // Los Angeles Times
Josh Hoover gets FPPC warning for not disclosing Kiley work // Sacramento Bee
‘I own you’: Longtime city clerk accused of racism, ageism // San Diego Union-Tribune
Self-driving cars are causing mayhem on S.F. streets, officials say // San Francisco Chronicle
Top LAFD official retires amid harassment investigation // Los Angeles Times
Judge orders review that could overturn Oakland school board race // East Bay Times
Warden at women’s prison faced sexual harassment lawsuit // Sacramento Bee
What the Navy’s geriatric dolphins in San Diego can tell us about aging // New York Times
Five astonishing things from UCSB’s old-timey audio archive // KQED
Most Bay Area cities will miss a major state housing deadline // San Francisco Chronicle
Three state office buildings could become affordable housing // Sacramento Bee
‘Rust’ charges: prosecutors say Baldwin shouldn’t have pointed gun // Hollywood Reporter
California author uses dark humor — and a bear — to highlight flawed health system // KHN
Opinion: California environmental law is too easily weaponized // Los Angeles Times