More pain for California’s forced sterilization patients
Patients who were already victimized once by California’s forced sterilization program — and who are running out of time to claim state compensation — were nearly victimized again.
This time, it’s because of a data breach that exposed their personal and medical information.
Last December, a researcher looking into the sterilization of thousands of female patients and inmates — a practice that was sanctioned since the 1900s and had only ceased in 2013 — was viewing records from the California State Archives. Records 75 years and older are publicly accessible, but a digital copy of microfilm the researcher viewed was mislabeled and actually included more recent information, from 1948 to 1954.
The records were eventually pulled and redacted from the state Archives after the researcher told officials. But personal information, including patients’ full names, birthdates and family medical histories were exposed, as well as medical information such as diagnoses and dates of sterilization.
California’s secretary of state office, which oversees the state Archives, quietly posted a notice on its website on March 10 about what it called a “privacy incident of historical health records” and has been notifying those who have been affected. For those who suspect they are part of the breach, the secretary of state offered a FAQ with a few tips on identity theft. An office spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
These kinds of records are used by researchers to help verify victims and estimate the number of living survivors.
- Nicole Novak, co-director of the Sterilization and Social Justice Lab research team: “It’s remarkable that these archival records exist. When used appropriately and under the correct security standards and ethical guidelines, they are a really powerful resource for documenting the scope and scale of the state’s eugenics program.”
By 1979, long after the peak of the 1930s eugenics movement, California sterilized an estimated 20,000 people, deemed unfit to reproduce, without their consent. The practice ended in 1979 for state hospitals and in 2010 for state prisons, when eugenics laws were finally repealed.
An exposé from The Center for Investigative Reporting in 2013 revealed 148 women were sterilized without proper approval from 2006 to 2010, and a separate state audit found that the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation oversaw the illegal sterilization of 144 inmates from 2005 to 2013.
In 2021, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a compensation program that pays as much as $25,000 per patient. The program is budgeted at $7.5 million and ends Dec. 31. Despite public outreach to contact more patients, plus radio and TV ads, it’s unlikely that California will find and compensate all victims. Through February, about 60 claims had been approved, totaling $915,000.
- Lynda Gledhill, chief executive of the California Victim Compensation Board, to Capitol Weekly: “This is a very hard to reach population. The estimates are that there are maybe 600 of those people still alive. And as you can imagine, they are quite elderly. And if they were in state hospitals or were incarcerated, their relationship with state government is not that great so they can be very hard to reach.”
Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo, a Los Angeles Democrat who authored the compensation law, said in an emailed statement to CalMatters that the disclosure of personal information is “concerning because we do not want to impose any additional trauma on these survivors whom have suffered enough.”
But safeguards should prevent more problems, she added, and this incident should not distract from the compensation program itself.
- Carrillo: “As we set out to rectify these past wrongs, it is essential that we take all necessary steps to find and compensate survivors.”
California’s water crisis, explained: Despite the series of atmospheric rivers and devastating floods, the state isn’t flush with water. CalMatters has a detailed look at how California might increase its water supply. And now, you can read it in Spanish.
Other Stories You Should Know
1 Who drives EVs in CA?
Who buys electric cars in California?
In the latest installment of CalMatters’ series “Race to Zero: California’s bumpy road to electrify cars and trucks,” environmental reporter Nadia Lopez and data reporter Erica Yee analyzed statewide data to reveal a strikingly homogenous portrait of who owns electric vehicles in California.
The highest concentrations of electric cars are in ZIP codes where residents are at least 75% white and Asian. And they are congregated in Silicon Valley cities and affluent parts of Los Angeles and Orange counties. In contrast, electric cars are nearly non-existent in Latino, Black and low-income communities.
- Kevin Fingerman, an associate professor of energy and climate at California State Polytechnic University Humboldt: “It makes sense why we would see way more concentrations of EVs in densely urban areas or populated areas. The barriers to people owning electric vehicles across the demographics in the state are real. But they’re solvable.”
The portrait reveals the enormous challenge that California faces to electrify the fleet. If people who buy electric cars are largely white or Asian, highly educated, wealthy suburbanites, will they be accessible to all Californians — no matter their race, income and location — in the coming decade?
California’s ambition to battle climate change and clean up air pollution hinges on its ability to electrify its 25 million gas cars to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. The next decade will be telling for the state as it enforces a historic mandate that requires 35% of cars sold in California, beginning with 2026 models, to be zero-emissions, ramping up to 68% in 2030 and 100% in 2035.
As part of the report, Nadia highlights the good and bad experiences of drivers in California, offering a glimpse into the challenges the state faces to meet the mandate.
- Urvi Nagrani, 35, an EV owner in Los Altos: “People living in Silicon Valley have home chargers. But we need to have better options for renters because it hasn’t gotten much better for me as a renter.”
Her reporting indicates that state leaders face an array of obstacles that are causing the wide gaps in electric vehicle ownership: High upfront vehicle costs, lack of chargers for renters and inadequate access to public charging stations in low-income and rural communities.
- Christopher Bowe, 48, a Hayward EV owner: “The average person can’t afford to buy (an electric car) if early adopters like me don’t buy it. But by 2035? That’s a great aspiration, but it’s crazy. There’s no practical way it’s going to happen. The reality is that there is going to be inequity and that inequity is inherent.”
Have questions? Nadia and Erica’s story is the third in a series on California’s road to electrify cars and trucks. Starting in 2035, no new gasoline-powered vehicles will be sold in the state. Do you have questions about this transformation? Submit them here.
2 Tax board on chopping block?
From CalMatters state Capitol reporter Sameea Kamal:
State lawmakers have already stripped the state Board of Equalization of many of its powers. But doing away with it entirely — and abolishing four elected positions in the process?
That could prove a heavier lift.
On Tuesday, Democratic Assemblymembers Phil Ting from San Francisco, Jacqui Irwin from Thousand Oaks and Cottie Petrie-Norris from Irvine proposed a bill that would ask voters to disband the board via a constitutional amendment in 2024. To get on the ballot, it would require two-thirds approval of both the Assembly and state Senate.
The board was established in 1879 to make sure the then-powerful railroad industry paid its fair share of taxes. As Irwin noted during the Tuesday press conference: “The BOE is a vestige of the 19th century that existed before most people had indoor plumbing.”
In recent years, the board has been plagued by a series of scandals and mismanagement. (Among the most notorious: The time former member Jerome Horton spent $130,000 on office furniture — or when actor Rob Lowe accused Horton of using an anti-Semitic slur during an income tax dispute).
In 2017 and 2018, the Legislature created two new tax agencies and gave them many of the board’s taxpayer advocate duties. Ting said the two agencies — the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration and the Office of Tax Appeals — have been more efficient.
The board’s remaining duties are to oversee property taxes, alcoholic beverage taxes and insurance taxes, as well as the 58 county assessors’ offices. Under the proposed legislation, the remaining duties would be absorbed by other agencies. It currently employs 500 people.
Ting, chairperson of the Assembly budget committee who led the previous effort to weaken the board, said the move would save $27 million to 35 million a year, as the state is facing a projected $25 billion budget deficit.
- Irwin: “California no longer needs three taxing agencies.”
Ting made clear that the move was not in response to any of the current board members, just elected in November: Ted Gaines, Antonio Vazquez, Sally Lieber and Mike Schaefer, who won a second term despite being disbarred, convicted of spousal abuse and sued for being a slumlord.
“Many of them are new and have only served a very, very short time,” Ting said. “This is about structurally what needs to be done.”
- Vazquez, the board’s chairperson: “This proposal would silence the voices of taxpayers and the underserved and underrepresented communities of color, replacing the elected Board accountable to all Californians with unelected bureaucrats.”
Both the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the California Taxpayers Association also oppose the idea.
- CalTax President Robert Gutierrez, in a statement: “This misguided proposal would force California’s property tax system into the shadows, reduce accountability, and give a dangerous level of power to political appointees. Our current system provides taxation with representation, and there is no need to eliminate Californians’ right to vote on these important positions.”
The last time California eliminated elected posts was in 1911, when the clerk of the Supreme Court, the state Printer and the Railroad Commission (later renamed the California Public Utilities Commission) became appointed offices, according to Alex Vassar, communications manager for the California State Library.
3 ‘Dream,’ for some
More Californians are leaving, well, California. The Public Policy Institute of California reported Tuesday that the main driver of recent population losses is the exodus to other states: 7.7 million left from 2010 through 2021, while only 5.8 million moved here from other states. The net loss is across all ages, education and income levels.
The report listed employment, family and — not surprisingly — housing costs as the top reasons people move away. Since 2015, 500,000 who left cited housing as the primary reason, according to Census surveys.
And buying a home in California could get tougher if the state goes through with plans to scale back its loan program for first-time purchasers, reports CalMatters’ Alejandro Lazo.
Known as Dream For All and launching on March 27, the program aims to help low- and middle-income buyers by providing loans that pay for most upfront costs, such as down payments. Along with a full repayment of the initial loan, the state will also get a share of profits when the home is sold, refinanced or transferred.
The proceeds go back to the state, but will also help fund other borrowers down the line. The system works, but only if home prices keep climbing.
That’s a big but.
Thanks to a perfect storm of declining home prices, rising mortgage interest rates, a volatile housing market, a decline in personal income and a projected $22.5 billion budget deficit, Newsom is proposing to reduce funds for the program, which was supposed to be a 10-year, $10 billion investment. Instead of kicking it off with $500 million, it would now have $300 million — enough to help 2,300 buyers.
Despite the proposed cuts, Toni Atkins, the Senate president pro tem who championed the program, remains optimistic.
- Atkins, a Democrat from San Diego: “Our state is about to launch a program that will help change people’s lives for the better, and make the dream of homeownership a reality.”
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California business interests increasingly use ballot measures to block or delay laws imposing new regulations, but progressive groups want to make such actions more difficult.
More research warns that hydrogen can contribute to global warming, but neither local nor state regulators seem to be paying attention, writes Josh Lappen, a doctoral candidate studying the development of California’s energy systems at Oxford University.
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LA police accidentally release photos of undercover officers // Los Angeles Times
In Los Angeles, a friendship grows out of housing strife // Capital & Main
How San Jose could save $23 million // San Jose Spotlight
UC San Diego to spend $1.1 billion on student center and housing // San Diego Union-Tribune
Families in Stanislaus County won’t get FEMA assistance for storm damage // Modesto Bee