Activists Demand Higher Payments from California Reparations Task Force: ‘$200 million’ Per Person

Activists on Saturday demanded that the state of California pay millions of dollars to each Black resident in reparations as a way to make amends for slavery and subsequent discrimination, dismissing the mammoth proposals from California’s reparations task force as too little.

The demands were made at a highly explosive official meeting of the task force, which was created by state legislation signed by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2020. The committee was hearing comments from the public as it considers final recommendations to submit to the California Legislature, which will then decide whether to implement the measures and send them to Newsom’s desk to be signed into law.

An activist identified as Reverend Tony Pierce was one of the most outspoken people at the gathering, making reference to the famous “40 acres and a mule” promise to former slaves when he took the podium.

“You know that the numbers should be equivocal to what an acre was back then. We were given 40, OK? We were given 40 acres. You know what that number is. You keep trying to talk about now, yet you research back to slavery and you say nothing about slavery, nothing,” said Pierce. “So, the equivocal number from the 1860s for 40 acres to today is $200 million for each and every African-American.”

Pierce, who shouted most of his remarks, then directed his ire to the task force for in his view not pushing an ambitious enough reparations plan.

“You’re not supposed to be afraid,” he said. “You’re just supposed to tell the truth. You’re not supposed to be the gatekeepers. You’re supposed to say what the people want and hear from the people.”

Pierce concluded with a warning to California’s top elected official: “Tell Governor Newsom we’re coming. He knows me.”

Economists predicted in a preliminary estimate in March that California’s reparations plan could cost the state more than $800 billion. The task force, which consulted five economists and policy experts to arrive at the number, said at the time that the total didn’t include compensation for property that the group says was taken unjustly or for the devaluation of Black-owned businesses.

California’s total annual state budget sits at roughly $300 billion.

Pierce, who shouted most of his remarks, then directed his ire to the task force for in his view not pushing an ambitious enough reparations plan.

“You’re not supposed to be afraid,” he said. “You’re just supposed to tell the truth. You’re not supposed to be the gatekeepers. You’re supposed to say what the people want and hear from the people.”

Pierce concluded with a warning to California’s top elected official: “Tell Governor Newsom we’re coming. He knows me.”

Economists predicted in a preliminary estimate in March that California’s reparations plan could cost the state more than $800 billion. The task force, which consulted five economists and policy experts to arrive at the number, said at the time that the total didn’t include compensation for property that the group says was taken unjustly or for the devaluation of Black-owned businesses.

California’s total annual state budget sits at roughly $300 billion.

However, such ideas are skimping on what’s necessary to pay Black Californians, according to activists who spoke at the gathering.

“$1.2 million is nowhere near enough. It should be starting at least $5 million like San Francisco,” said one woman. “We want direct cash payments just like how the stimulus [checks] were sent out. It’s our inheritance, and we can handle it.”

The city of San Francisco is weighing its own reparations proposals at the local level, including a proposal to dole out $5 million each to qualifying Black residents.

Others at the meeting similarly dismissed the current task force plan is insufficient. One speaker called for the task force to issue $5 million in reparations as San Francisco is considering.

“This million dollars we’re hearing on the news is just inadequate and a further injustice if that’s what this task force is going to recommend for Black Americans for 400-plus years and continuing of slavery and injustice that we have been forced to endure,” she said. “To even throw a million dollars at us is just an injustice.”

Whatever the final figures, it’s unclear how California would afford to pay millions of dollars to each eligible Black resident. Newsom announced in January that the state faces a projected budget deficit of $22.5 billion for the coming fiscal year. Weeks later, the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, a government agency that analyzes the budget for the state legislature, estimated in a subsequent report that Newsom’s forecast undershot the mark by about $7 billion.

Task force leaders have said they expect the legislature to come up with actual reparations amounts. According to California Justice Department officials, the law creating the task force did not instruct the committee to identify funding sources.

Beyond arguing reparations proposals are fiscally unmanageable, critics argue it doesn’t make sense to implement them when California never allowed slavery.

Proponents counter that racial discrimination in the state has devastated the Black community, costing it untold amounts of money.

Beyond raw dollars and cents, the task force also proposes several policy changes to combat racial discrimination and for California to issue a formal apology enacted by the legislature and signed by the governor for slavery and anti-Black racism.

The reparations program would be overseen by a new state agency that would determine eligibility for and distribute funds, according to the task force report.

Most people who spoke at Saturday’s meeting spoke in support of reparations. Despite such agreement, however, sparks flew throughout the chaotic, emotionally charged gathering as arguments broke out. Indeed, many attendees spoke out of turn and interrupted each other, leading Kamilah Moore, the task force chair, to call for security to remove people multiple times.

In several instances, activists in the room got into shouting matches, forcing the meeting to be put on pause to settle down the room.

Click here to read the full article at FoxNews11

New York Times: Sen. Dianne Feinstein ‘Should Resign’

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has had a “distinguished career in the U.S. Senate,” the New York Times editorial board said on Friday, adding, however, that she “should resign and turn over her responsibilities to an appointed successor.”

The 89-year-old senator, planning to retire at the end of her current term, has been absent from work since early 2023 as she was hospitalized with shingles. She has missed more than 90 votes in her absence and has given the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee the ability to stall some of President Joe Biden’s court nominees.

The Friday editorial board acknowledged that Feinstein, the oldest Senate member, has had a distinguished career in the upper chamber but said that “if she cannot fulfill her obligations to the Senate and to her constituents, she should resign and turn over her responsibilities to an appointed successor.”

“If she is unable to reach that decision on her own, Mr. Schumer, the majority leader, and other Democratic senators should make it clear to her and the public how important it is that she do so,” the editorial said. “Under the circumstances, Mr. Schumer should turn up the public pressure on her to return or resign, setting aside the antique Senate gentility that can hobble common-sense decision-making there.”

Additionally, the editorial board pointed to a report from last year in the San Francisco Chronicle, her hometown newspaper, that revealed Feinstein’s “memory has so deteriorated that she can no longer fulfill her job duties” and that her colleagues have even acknowledged that she “cannot keep up with conversations … [and] doesn’t seem to fully recognize other senators and relies almost entirely on staff members.”

The editorial board recognized that some of the past calls for her to resign had been called “sexist” but that senators have a “primary and inescapable duty” to show up and vote, which Feinstein has been unable do while she has recovered from shingles.

“Senate seats are not lifetime sinecures, and if members can’t effectively represent their constituents or work for the benefit of their country, they should not hesitate to turn the job over to someone who can. Ms. Feinstein owes California a responsible decision,” the editorial concluded.

Click here to read the full article at BreitbartCA

Tentative Settlement Reached in Lawsuit Over Garcetti Aide’s Alleged Sexual Harassment

A Los Angeles Police Department officer who accused ex-Mayor Eric Garcetti’s former senior advisor Rick Jacobs of sexual harassment has tentatively agreed to settle his lawsuit with the city, according to court documents.

Attorneys for Matthew Garza, a Metropolitan Division officer assigned to Garcetti’s security detail for a decade, filed documents Thursday saying a tentative settlement has been reached in the case that endangered the former mayor’s political future and revealed widespread allegations of misconduct against Jacobs, a powerful political fixer and key aide to Garcetti.

On Friday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Curtis A. Kin, informed of a “conditional’’ resolution of the case, canceled the Sept. 5 start of the trial.

A source familiar with the lawsuit said the payout is in the range of $1.5 million to $2 million. Any settlement involving a significant amount of money would need City Council approval.

Attorney Greg Smith, who represents Garza, declined to comment. Typically such settlements are reached between the city lawyers and the plaintiff’s lawyers and then approved by the council.

Representatives for Jacobs didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokesperson for City Atty. Hydee Feldstein Soto declined to comment.

The veteran police officer sued in July 2020, alleging sex and gender harassment, alleging that Jacobs subjected him to tight hugs, shoulder rubs and a plethora of unwanted and unwelcome sexual comments from 2014 to 2019.

Garcetti witnessed some of the behavior but didn’t intervene, Garza’s lawsuit alleges.

Jacobs denied harassing anyone.

Garcetti, now U.S. ambassador to India, denied he condoned any misconduct, saying that he would have acted promptly if he had been informed of a problem. In a deposition, he insisted he never witnessed any of the conduct.

The questions over what Garcetti might have known led Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) to launch an investigation. The investigation found that Garcetti “likely knew or should have known that Rick Jacobs was sexually harassing multiple individuals and making racist comments towards others.”

Meanwhile, a report ordered by the city attorney’s office to help in its defense of the Garza case concluded that Garza was not sexually harassed by Jacobs and that Garcetti did nothing wrong.

A sworn LAPD officer since 1997, Garza began working on Garcetti’s security detail in October 2013. He alleged Jacobs would extend his hand for a purported handshake, but then pull Garza toward him to give a “long, tight hug,” while simultaneously saying, “I love me my strong LAPD officers” or some other “inappropriate comment,” according to the suit.

Jacobs, in his deposition, acknowledged that he may have hugged Garza and made sexual jokes in front of the mayor’s security detail team.

Two other men who worked in Garcetti’s office also gave deposition testimony in which they said they were subjected to unwanted touching from Jacobs.

One of the mayor’s former communications directors, Naomi Seligman, testified that she complained about Jacobs’ alleged misconduct to Garcetti’s onetime chief of staff, Ana Guerrero. She said nothing was ever done about it. Guerrero denies that she was ever told.

Garcetti, in his own deposition, denied that he witnessed Jacobs inappropriately touch Garza and denied that he heard Jacobs talk explicitly about sex, saying such behavior would be “completely out of character” for Jacobs.

Garcetti was also shown a photo that appeared in The Times of Jacobs placing his hand near the crotch of a manas the two posed for a group photo at a convention in Miami in 2017. Garcetti stands next to the two men and others, smiling and giving a double thumbs-up gesture.

Asked to explain why his former aide made the gesture, the mayor replied: “No. You’d have to ask Mr. Jacobs.”

Garcetti added he “absolutely” did not see the gesture at the time.

Jacobs has called the lawsuit “a work of pure fiction.” Jacobs raised millions of dollars in support of Garcetti’s 2013 mayoral campaign and was a top City Hall deputy before stepping down in 2016. He continued to work as a political consultant for Garcetti and helped run two nonprofits associated with the mayor until Garza filed his lawsuit.

The allegations concerned some senators, which led Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) to delay a vote on Garcetti’s nomination to be ambassador to India.

The former mayor’s parents — onetime L.A. County Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti and Sukey Garcetti — hired lobbyists to help win his confirmation, and the former mayor leaned on the few Washington friends he had. In March, the Senate confirmed his nomination.

A spokesperson for City Councilman Bob Blumenfield, who chairs the city’s budget committee that deals with legal settlements, declined to comment Friday on the proposed settlement.

Click here to read the whole article in the LA Times

Democrats Remain Mostly Silent About Senator Min’s DUI Despite More Evidence Of Guilt

Photos of Min at a Sacramento bar only hours before his arrest fuel calls for resignation, dropping out of Congressional campaign

Prominent California Democrats continued to not weigh in on the DUI of Senator Dave Min (D-Orange County) on Thursday, despite more details coming out proving his guilt in the matter.

While the released California Highway Patrol report, his arrest, booking for a misdemeanor DUI charge, and his subsequent release on Wednesday were all previously known to the public, new details released on Thursday filled in some of the mysteries of the incident. Twitter posts, including some by Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-North Hollywood), showed Min at Sacramento bars with fellow Assembly Members, as well as lobbyists and realtors. In addition, he was tagged in posts and was mentioned to be indulging in the celebrations only hours before his arrest.

In addition, it is also now known that the Silver Toyota Camry he was pulled over in was a state car, perhaps worsening the situation he is currently in now.

While many lawmakers, political groups, and others weighed in on his DUI this week, with some even calling for him to resign or pull out of the 37th District Congressional race, Democrat lawmakers have remained largely silent on the situation.

Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) did give a brief statement saying, “Like Senator Min, we’re disappointed in his actions, but pleased that he’s taken responsibility and apologized.” However, as of Thursday evening, that has been the most any were willing to say.

Republicans have led the charge on questioning the DUI, calling on Democrats to comment on the DUI or ask some who have backed him in the Congressional race, such as state Attorney General Rob Bonta and Congressional Members Judy Chu, Mark Takano, and Andy Kim, if they are still backing him. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has been particularly adamant in getting responses on where lawmakers are siding with him.

“Katie Porter, Orange County Democrats and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee can’t hide from questions about Dave Min’s drunk driving arrest for long. Come out, come out wherever you are, and tell the public if you think Dave Min is fit to serve in Congress.” said NRCC Spokesperson Ben Petersen on Thursday.

Political experts noted to the Globe on Thursday that many are currently in a “wait and see” mode, wanting to find out more about the incident before judging the DUI.

“A lot of Democrats want to hear more directly from him first,” explained Anne Otis, a Los Angeles Public Relations expert who specializes in political scandals. “They want to hear from him. If there is bodycam or dashcam footage, they want to see that. Some are even waiting to see how it plays out in court. In any case, the GOP can have a field day of this down the line. Judge gives Min a light sentence or even kinda waives it off, it can be a gold mine about how he cheated the system. He gets the book thrown at him, they can say that his DUI was that bad.”

“The real question is what the party will do. Everyone makes mistakes, and even Republicans said it was good that he took responsibility for his actions. But this was a DUI, something he had called out others on in the past about. He’s already running in a Congressional District that is essentially a tossup with a Republican candidate who nearly beat [Congresswoman Katie] Porter [D-CA] last year. He’s losing a lot of moderates with this, as well as some Democrats. And that’s not even mentioning voters who feel strongly about public safety or who have been victims of DUIs in the past. He’ll need a really good PR campaign to get out of this one, and his campaign is probably still trying to come up with something.

“In any case, Min is now even more at risk in the district, and we’re still 10 months away from the Primary.”

Click here to read the full article in California Globe

California Lawmakers OK Emergency Loans to Failing Hospitals

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Alarmed by the closure of a rural hospital earlier this year, California lawmakers on Thursday voted to loan $150 million to struggling medical centers in the hope of preventing a cascade of similar failures across the state.

The only hospital in Madera County closed in December, leaving the community of nearly 160,000 people with no medical center within a 30-minute drive. The closure was a startling reminder of the plight of many community hospitals in mostly rural areas of the country that have struggled to stay open during the coronavirus pandemic.

Since then, hospitals in El Centro, Montebello, Hawkins and Visalia have all teetered on the brink of collapse, with one declaring bankruptcy and another being taken over by a state university to prevent its closure. A report last month paid for by the California Hospital Association warned that 20% of the state’s more than 400 hospitals were at risk of closing.

California lawmakers typically don’t approve new spending until June following months of debate and negotiations with the governor’s office. But the crisis is so severe that legislative leaders and Gov. Gavin Newsom agreed to go ahead and spend this money now, pledging to do more later in the year when the budget is finished.

“I don’t think people are appreciating what’s going on out there. I am very worried,” said Carmela Coyle, president and CEO of the California Hospital Association, an industry trade group.

The pandemic upended hospitals across the country. While many were inundated with COVID-19 cases, patients for other things — like elective surgeries — dried up. Since then, rising inflation and labor costs have made it difficult for hospitals to recover.

In California, the problem has been compounded by an increase in the number of people who get their health care costs paid for by the government. The state’s Medicaid rolls increased dramatically during the pandemic, a combination of emergency rules to make the program more accessible and a decision by Democrats to make all low-income adults eligible for the program regardless of their immigration status.

While more people are on Medicaid, how much Medicaid pays hospitals has stayed the same. On average, for every dollar a hospital spends to care for someone, Medicaid gives it 74 cents back, Coyle said.

That’s a problem for hospitals like Kaweah Medical Center in Visalia, where most of its patients are on either Medicaid or Medicare. Nestled in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, the hospital serves a mostly agricultural community made up of low-income farmworkers.

Before the pandemic, the hospital would turn a modest profit of 3% or so each year, according to CEO Gary Herbst. But since 2020, Herbst said the hospital has lost $138 million. It has about $218 million in debt that a credit ratings agency recently downgraded to “junk” status.

The hospital is supposed to have at least 90 days of operating cash on hand at any time. Before the pandemic, the lowest it ever got was 110 days. At the end of March, it dropped to just 62 days. Herbst said the hospital has lost $39 million through the first nine months of the fiscal year, or more than it lost in all of last year combined.

Herbst said he hopes the hospital will break even next year because of various cost-cutting measures, including laying off about 200 people and cutting back on services. That includes cutting the number of elective procedures for Medicaid patients by 35% because, he said, on “every one of those procedures we lose money.”

“If you were an outpatient surgeon who did 10 elective (Medicaid) surgeries a month, you can only do six now. And you have to put your other patients on a waiting list,” Herbst said.

The state will give out the $150 million in the form of interest-free loans to nonprofit or public hospitals that meet certain conditions. The state will prioritize loans for medical centers in rural areas and those that have a disproportionate number of patients on Medicaid, the joint state and federal government health insurance program for the poor and the disabled.

The $150 million likely won’t be enough to fix the problem. Herbst, CEO of Kaweah Health Medical Center in Visalia, said his hospital needs $50 million — one-third of the money available — to give it “some breathing room.”

During legislative hearings this week, lawmakers pledged their intent to offer more money in June when the state budget is finished.

“This is just a beginning. It’s antiseptic ointment on the cut. We haven’t even started with the Band-Aid,” said state Sen. Anna Caballero, a Democrat whose district includes the Madera Community Hospital that closed.

But it’s unclear how much more the state could pay. The California Hospital Association has asked for a one-time payment of $1.5 billion. But California has a projected $22.5 billion budget deficit, limiting the state’s ability to approve new spending.

One idea is to bring back a tax on managed care organizations, private companies that administer the state’s Medicaid program. The tax triggers more Medicaid payments from the federal government. The last time it was in place, it saved the state $1.5 billion. The tax expired in 2020, but Newsom and some lawmakers want to bring it back.

The Newsom administration says it plans to use some of that new tax money to increase payments to hospitals for Medicaid patients. But those increases wouldn’t happen until next year at the earliest.

Click here to read the full article at AP News

Title 42 Countdown: 700,000 Migrants in Mexico Waiting to Rush U.S. Border

As many as 700,000 migrants, a foreign population larger than Boston, Massachusetts, are currently in Mexico waiting to rush the United States-Mexico border when President Joe Biden ends the public health authority known as Title 42 on May 11.

In 2020, in the midst of the Chinese coronavirus crisis, former President Donald Trump invoked the public health authority known as Title 42 at the border, ensuring that federal immigration officials have been able to quickly return millions of illegal aliens to Mexico over the last three years.

On May 11, though, Biden will end Title 42 and expand its Catch and Release network to quickly move border crossers and illegal aliens into the U.S. interior — including deploying 1,500 U.S. troops to the border to free up federal immigration officials to process arrivals at a faster pace.

During a Yuma County Board of Supervisors meeting this week, supervisor Jonathan Lines revealed that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials have warned them that as many as 700,000 migrants are waiting in Mexico to rush the border when Title 42 ends.

“Border Patrol shared with us their intelligence that there are approximately 700,000, as of three weeks ago, in the shelters in Mexico waiting to come into the United States,” Lines said. “They also shared with us that at the Darian Gap which is at the Panama Canal, they’ve seen a 500 percent surge in people crossing over that gap on their way up to the United States.”

Rep. Andy Biggs’ (R-AZ) office confirmed to Breitbart News that they too have been told by officials of the looming 700,000 migrants waiting in Mexico.

Such a “mass migration event,” as Lines said DHS officials called it, would see a foreign population arriving at the border that exceeds the resident population of cities like Boston and Nashville, Tennessee.

“Right now, all of the people that are coming across the border, 40 percent of them are expelled under Title 42 in Yuma, Arizona,” Lines said. “So 40 percent of the people coming across are immediately expelled and they’re flown back to their countries of origin. That goes away on May 11; they are no longer processed out.”

Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot noted that his law enforcement officers have their hands tied, unable to apprehend and detain border crossers and illegal aliens, as federal law would have them charged with kidnapping.

“[If we could arrest], I would fill the jail in a day with the amount of individuals that we encounter trespassing,” Wilmot said.

“International labor organizations and the cartels are facilitating this trade,” Lines noted. “They’re making a significant amount of money — 27 million were forced into labor over the last two years [and] 6.3 million [forced] into sexual exploitation.”

Americans in U.S. border towns like Yuma are especially hard hit by illegal immigration.

In February, Dr. Robert Trenschel of the Yuma Regional Medical Center detailed how in just one year, local taxpayers were left with $26 million in unpaid medical bills from border crossers and illegal aliens who showed up to the hospital needed care. That amount is set to increase, Trenschel said, when Title 42 ends.

Click here to read the full article at BreitbartCA

State Senator Dave Min Arrested For Drunk Driving In Sacramento County

Min was released from Sacramento County Jail on Wednesday morning

Senator Dave Min (D-Orange County), a state Senator since 2020 and one of three main candidates currently vying for Congresswoman Katie Porter’s (D-CA) Congressional seat next year, was arrested Tuesday night in Sacramento County for drunk driving.

While details of the incident are yet to be known, including the circumstances of the incident, what his blood alcohol level was, and if he will contest the charge or not, it is known that on Tuesday night he was pulled over by police on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. Min was arrested, charged with a misdemeanor for driving under the influence, and sent to Sacramento County Jail. On Wednesday morning he was released, with further action, including a court appearance, likely to occur in the near future.

While his Congressional campaign has yet to comment on the incident, Min himself wrote of the incident on social media on Wednesday, apologizing for his crime, taking full responsibility for what he did.

“Last night I was cited for a misdemeanor for driving under the influence,” Min said on social media on Wednesday. “My decision to drive last night was irresponsible. I accept full responsibility and there is no excuse for my actions. To my family, constituents and supporters, I am so deeply sorry. I know I need to do better. I will not let this personal failure distract from our work in California and in Washington.”

Dave Min DUI social media post (Photo: Dave Min Official Facebook Page)

Min first entered the world of politics in the early 2000’s. Following a stint as a staff attorney at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Min became the Senate Banking Committee Counsel for Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in Washington, and later, the Counsel and senior policy advisor to the United States Congress Joint Economic Committee. However, he returned to California in the late 2000’s to become an assistant law professor at UC Irvine.

Min’s DUI and the 2024 47th District Congressional race

In 2018, Min reentered politics and ran for the then 45th House District due to disagreements over former President Trump’s immigration policies. However, this proved to be short-lived. Following Min causing a huge stir at the Democratic state convention over who the party should nominate for the race and barely getting their endorsement over Katie Porter, he lost the Primary that June to eventual winner Porter and Republican Congresswoman Mimi Walters, becoming one of the few Democrats to get the support of the party yet still lose in the primary during the 2018 blue wave election.

In 2020, after beating Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley in the primary, Min narrowly defeated then Senator John Moorlach for the 37th District Senate seat by just over 12,000 votes, 51% to 49%. In his two years in the Senate, Min has had mixed success with legislation in the Senate. While he has had some success on more social and environmental bills, such as getting a bill that will make all autonomous cars in California be electric by 2030 get passed in 2021, many of his higher-profile bills have failed, such as his numerous attempts to stop off-shore oil and gas drilling being blocked by the combination of Republicans, unions, and numerous Californian companies.

In January, following Congresswoman Porter’s decision to run for Dianne Feinstein’s U.S. Senate seat early, Min became the third major candidate to enter the 2024 Orange County 47th District congressional race. Currently he is facing off against 2022 near-winner Scott Baugh (R) following former Congressman Harley Rouda (D) pulling out of the race last month. However, due to the DUI, that could change.

“He is a major liability now,” explained Malik Griffin, a Los Angeles polling analyst, to the Globe on Wednesday. “While people in office have gotten DUIs in the past, like former Senator Ben Hueso in 2014, this isn’t exactly an entirely forgivable offense. There is a silver lining in that he was transparent and took responsibility for it immediately, you got to give him that, but the fact that he did it is bad. And we don’t even know the circumstances yet. If other people were involved or something, it could be a lot worse.”

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Undocumented Students Qualify for Financial Aid in California. Why Aren’t More of Them Using It?

When Deysi Mojica received her acceptance to UC Riverside, she was excited. Not only had she overcome her high school’s lack of resources to help undocumented students like herself apply to college, but the university was offering a financial aid package that would make her college dream possible.

“Even though I am undocumented,” said Mojica, now a first-year student, “the amount of money that they gave me was basically covering all my expenses.” 

But an unexpected $13,000 charge from the university just before she was due to start classes quickly changed her excitement into confusion, leaving her wondering where the money she was awarded had gone. It was only after repeated calls to the financial aid office, Mojica said, that a helpful student assistant who was also undocumented gave her the information that saved her from dropping out: Her aid package was held up because a signature was missing from one of her application forms.

Like Mojica, many undocumented students lack accurate information about applying for financial aid or find the process intimidating. California has since 2011 allowed undocumented students to receive financial aid from the state and its public universities if they meet certain eligibility requirements. But students, advocates, and even the California Student Aid Commission itself say the aid application developed under a state law known as the California Dream Act is unnecessarily complex, not enough college staff are trained to advise students about it, and campus departments don’t collaborate well when processing applications. As a result, they say, many undocumented students are missing out on aid for which they qualify.

Only 14% of undocumented students in California receive any form of financial aid to pursue higher education, according to a recent California Student Aid Commission report. Of the nearly 45,000 undocumented students who applied for financial aid for this past academic year, fewer than 30% ultimately enrolled in school and received aid.

“What we know is we’ve got a lot of students that are willing and going through the process, but they’re not getting the financial aid support,” said Marlene Garcia, executive director of the student aid commission. “I think that’s a starting point to analyze that there is a problem here.”

One of the problems Garcia cited: Verifying eligibility for the aid can be cumbersome and fear-inducing to undocumented students concerned about the risks of sharing their personal information.

California exempts undocumented students from paying nonresident tuition if they spent three years at, and received a degree, diploma or certificate from a California high school or community college. When those students want to apply for financial aid, they must also submit a document — also known as an AB540 affidavit —  to the campus they plan to attend verifying they qualify for the exemption and promising to legalize their immigration status as soon as possible.  

The student aid commission then randomly selects 20% of students for verification that the information they reported in their applications is accurate. 

But individual campuses do the actual verifying, and there is no statewide standard. 

California State University Chico and American River College, for example, accept a simple statement from students that they are eligible and only require extra documents if there is conflicting information in their applications, according to the student aid commission. But other campuses require much more information, such as W-2 forms, IRS tax transcripts, and/or household size information.

That’s when some students fall through the cracks, said Sergio Belloso, a counselor at Santa Monica College’s Dream Resource Center, which provides legal, mental health and financial aid counseling services for the college’s undocumented students. 

“Sometimes students just stop that process, because they’re like, ‘I don’t want to give them my information,’ ” Belloso said.

The affidavit and financial aid application also must be sent to different departments on campus, often causing delays and confusion for students.

“What we know is that we’ve got a lot of students that are willing and going through the process, but they’re not getting the financial aid support.”MARLENE GARCIA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CALIFORNIA STUDENT AID COMMISSION

At Santa Monica College, the Dream Resource Center serves on average 200 undocumented students per semester, Belloso said. Although tuition at California community colleges is just $46 per credit hour, or free on some campuses, many students, regardless of immigration status, use financial aid to cover additional expenses such as textbooks, transportation, and living costs. 

Belloso said he and other center staff spend a large portion of their time and resources on helping students get financial aid, including those who don’t qualify for aid and in-state tuition.  If other campus staff members were better trained to understand financial aid for undocumented students, the center would have more time to explore other aspects of its mission, such as providing legal help, he said.  

Cristina Sanchez, who provides drop-in counseling to undocumented students at Solano College, said she started her job right after graduating from college with little more than an Excel spreadsheet with student contact information. As the sole, part-time staff member tasked with supporting about 200 undocumented students, Sanchez is also concerned the students she serves may not be getting the financial aid information they need. 

“I was not given any training or anything like that, it was kind of like, ‘Here you go,’” Sanchez said. “So it’s been a lot of teaching myself or going out of my way to learn more, because I’m not undocumented.” 

Sanchez said a lot of times she is sending students to other counselors and financial aid officers, creating a game of hot potato and potential communication breakdowns between campus departments. 

Strengthening campus centers for undocumented students could help such students persist and navigate financial aid difficulties, students and counselors said. Even though the staff at UC Riverside’s Undocumented Student Programs couldn’t fix Mojica’s financial aid problem, she said, they welcomed her to campus, apologized for the difficulties she was having and even helped her find a work-study job doing social media for an undocumented student organization. Mojica said the support helped her feel like she belonged on campus.

“They were super welcoming. They spoke to my mom, started telling me about our (food) pantry and about the groceries. Although I didn’t ask, they were already giving me so much information,” said Mojica. “It had a big impact on me.”

The center, which supports more than 600 students, one of the largest undocumented student populations among UC campuses, plans to hire a dedicated counselor to assist undocumented students with their financial aid applications. 

Meanwhile, the student aid commission is working to tackle some of the issues in the Dream Act application process. It has recommended reducing the percentage of applications requiring verification and allowing Dream Act applicants to receive text message updates on the status of their aid. 

The commission is also sponsoring Assembly Bill 1540, introduced by Los Angeles Democratic Assemblymember Mike Fong, which would allow undocumented students to fill out a single application for both their financial aid and residency. It’s currently under consideration in the appropriations committee. 

“We think that it should be intuitive. Students shouldn’t have to go through a maze to figure out how to get financial aid,” said Garcia. “The financial aid system should meet students where they’re at more effectively.”

Although both Sanchez and Belloso are excited to see a more streamlined application for students, Belloso feels there is still more that can be done to help undocumented students pursue higher education. He hopes campuses and the aid commission will collect and share campus-level data on how many undocumented students are applying for and receiving aid, so counselors like him can better support them. More financial aid training for other campus staff would also help, he said.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

Nordstrom, Saks Off Fifth Announce They Are Leaving San Francisco

The three locations are the latest retail chain stores to leave the city

High-end department stores Nordstrom and Saks Off Fifth became the latest retail stores to vacate San Francisco on Tuesday, with the 3 large locations representing over 500,000 square feet of retail space expected to be completely vacated by the early fall.

For several years, large chains and small businesses alike have been leaving San Francisco, either closing permanently or relocating operations outside the city. In the case of small businesses, some have left the area entirely, moving out of state or to other areas in the state. For the last few years, for example, Walgreens has closed more and more stores in the city due to the massive amount of crime within its stores. Higher-end stores have also cited break-ins and crime as major reasons for leaving. And just within the last two months, all Amazon Go storesAnthropologie, several high-end Union square stores, and the flagship Whole Foods store have all announced that their doors will be closing, along with multiple non-chain stores throughout the city.

While crime has been cited as the main reason for many going, high rent costs, a lack of customers coming in due to the concurrent office exodus from the city, the homeless crisis keeping many away from parts of the city, and the overall decline of retail have all played a factor in the high number of businesses leaving. On Tuesday, all of those factors caused both Nordstrom and Saks Off Fifth to leave as well.

Nordstrom will be closing both of their San Francisco locations, one in Westfield Mall and the other, a Nordstrom Rack, in the downtown area. Both will wait until their leases are up, with the downtown Nordstrom rack closing on July 1st and the mall location on August 31st. While the closures could be looked into as part of the overall decline of retail, the company proved this to be false by announcing 5 new locations to be opened up across the state, including 4 ringing the Bay Area.

They also specifically noted the worsening conditions for the stores in the city, stating in an e-mail that “the dynamics of the downtown San Francisco market have changed dramatically over the past several years, impacting customer foot traffic to our stores and our ability to operate successfully.”

The Westfield mall also released a statement about the closure, noting in a statement that “the planned closure underscores the deteriorating situation in Downtown San Francisco. A growing number of retailers and businesses are leaving the area due to the unsafe conditions for customers, retailers, and employees, coupled with the fact that these significant issues are preventing an economic recovery of the area. We have expressed serious concerns to city leaders for many years and urged the city to find solutions to the key issues and lack of enforcement against rampant criminal activity.”

Saks, meanwhile, announced that their Saks Off 5th location on Market Street is due to close this fall after more than 8 years in the city. The Saks off 5th, located right by the Nordstrom Rack location, will be the only location closing in the area, with other Saks Off 5th locations in Petaluma, Milpitas, and Livermore remaining open, and the Saks 5th Avenue location in San Francisco also remaining open for now.

“We are committed to offering support and assistance to our team impacted by the closing. Eligible associates will receive appropriate employment separation packages and transfer opportunities will be explored where feasible.”

Nordstrom, Saks Off Fifth to leave city by the Fall

City officials were disappointed by  the decision of the retailers, noting that they were increasing police presence at the locations where the stores are leaving and that other public safety measures had been enacted in recent years. However, the multitude of problems proved to be too much for the companies in the end.

“The City worked with Westfield to approve an office allocation and plan to reduce Nordstrom’s square footage and bring in additional office uses to the property,” said the Mayor’s office. “This plan made it through the Planning Commission but no further steps were taken on this plan,” said the spokesperson. “Westfield then began speaking about other options for redevelopment. The City has been eager to get a concrete plan from them that we could explore, however, they never brought us anything for review.”

However, security and safety experts have pointed out that not enough is still being done, with more businesses likely to leave soon as more leases come up for renewal.

“More big name stores left. This isn’t really a surprise anymore,” explained Bay Area security consultant and former policeman Frank Ma to the Globe on Tuesday. “The city just keeps refusing to do what is needed to be done. Get more officers, increase the number of prosecutions, and give economic incentives for these businesses to stay. Right now they are just not getting any.”

“It’s getting to the point where I am giving security consults to the same locations now. One place I did last week I had also swept through just before COVID in 2020 and then again in 2018. Another place I did at the exact same time in 2022 and 2021. All for new businesses coming in. That’s the turnaround in some places now. And those are the lucky ones, as many retail spaces are empty.”

Office space vacancy alone is around 30% across the city.

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

California Bill Advances, Requiring Big Tech to Pay for News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Big Tech companies such as Google and Meta might soon have to pay media outlets for posting and using their news content under a proposed California measure attempting to save local journalism.

The bill, which cleared an important Assembly Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday with bipartisan support, would require Google and Meta to share with California media companies their advertising revenue stemming from the news and other reported content. The amount would be determined through an arbitration process.

Supporters of the bill said it would provide a “lifeline” to local news organizations that have seen their advertising revenues nosedive in the digital era. Opponents, including trade groups and some journalism groups, said the legislation would be an unprecedented mandate that violates the First Amendment.

The bill would mandate that at least 70% of their revenue go to local news organizations to help pay for reporters’ salaries. Big Tech companies would also be prohibited from retaliating against a news outlet for demanding a fee by excluding their content on the platforms.

“As news consumption has moved online, community news outlets have been downsized and closing at an alarming rate,” said Assemblymember Buffy Wicks of Oakland, who authored the bill, said during the Tuesday hearing.

The Democrat said that California has lost more than 100 news organizations in the past decade.

“The dominant type platforms, both search engines and social networks, have such unrivaled market power that newsrooms are coerced to share the content they produce, which tech companies sell advertising against for almost no compensation in return,” she said, noting her bill is being backed by major journalism unions such as the News Media Alliance and Media Guild of the West, which represents The Los Angeles Times and other newsrooms.

But critics of the bill said the legislation is unconstitutional for requiring online platforms to post content from all news organizations. It would also reward clickbait content and limit the ability for Google and Meta to fight misinformation on their platforms as it could be seen as retaliation, said a representative from Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group.

Chris Krewson, executive director of LION Publishers, a national news group representing more than 450 independent newsrooms, said the bill is “fundamentally flawed” and wasn’t written with small newsrooms in mind.

The bill would mostly benefit newspaper chains and hedge funds that have gutted local newsrooms in the last few decades, he said. His group represents more than 50 local newsrooms in California, 80% of which are operations with five or fewer journalists. Most of those news outlets wouldn’t meet the requirements to benefit, he said.

“I applaud the lawmaker for getting bipartisan support on this,” Krewson said in an interview Tuesday. “But this is backward.”

Over the last two years, LION Publishers has received at least $1 million in funding from Meta but Krewson said he’s not speaking on the tech company’s behalf.

Similar efforts to bolster local news companies have been attempted across the United States, Australia and Canada, among others, with various levels of success. Australia adopted a law in 2021 that resulted in $140 million in payments to news companies from Google and Facebook last year.

U.S. lawmakers are also pushing for similar initiatives, reintroducing a bill in March that failed in the last congressional session and would have allowed news companies to jointly negotiate an advertising rate with tech giants such as Google.

Meta declined to comment on the California bill but pointed to a statement it made to the U.S. Congress in 2022 and another it made to the Canadian government this year when it threatened to pull all news content from its platform if the company would have to pay for news. Google didn’t respond to an email seeking comment on the California bill.

Despite clearing another hurdle Tuesday, questions remain about how the bill would be implemented. Some lawmakers noted that Meta’s Facebook and Google do not operate the same way. Google scrapes news websites and provides users with summaries of reported content, while Facebook shows content such as photos, videos and articles to users based on their activities on the platform.

Democratic Assemblymember Matt Haney of San Francisco said he’s also concerned with how the state would ensure the money goes to local journalists.

Click here to read the full article in AP News