ACA 13 Attacks Both Proposition 13 and Direct Democracy in California

Less than two weeks ago, radical progressives in the California Legislature launched the most brazen sneak attack on California’s iconic Proposition 13 in its 45-year history. Assemblyman Christopher Ward, backed by the new Speaker of the Assembly, Robert Rivas, introduced Assembly Constitutional Amendment 13 (ACA 13). It would amend the constitution to make it easier to raise taxes, by making it harder to pass citizens’ initiatives that seek to enforce Proposition 13’s two-thirds vote requirement for local special tax increases.

The specific target of ACA 13 is a citizens’ initiative backed both by taxpayer organizations and the business community. The Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act (TPA) has already qualified for the November 2024 ballot, and polling shows it to be popular with voters. The TPA closes several loopholes created by the courts that have allowed special interests to work with local governments to raise taxes with a simple majority vote instead of the two-thirds vote required by Proposition 13.

For example, the California Supreme Court’s infamous Upland decision in 2017 turned 40 years of Prop. 13 jurisprudence on its head by suggesting that a citizens’ initiative could raise taxes without a two-thirds vote. The TPA ends that game.

The TPA would also provide unprecedented transparency when tax-hike measures are on the ballot, allowing voters to know what these propositions will cost them. In other words, TPA is a threat to the status quo by effectively restoring taxpayer rights.

This column has repeatedly exposed the legislature’s hostility to the tools of direct democracy. Weakening the recall power, increasing the cost to initiate a statute, changing the meaning of a referendum vote so that a “no” vote means “yes,” are all proposals to deprive citizens of political power. But these direct democracy powers remain popular with the voting public – for good reason.

Since 1911, Californians have possessed powerful tools to control indolent or corrupt politicians. The rights of direct democracy – initiative, referendum, and recall – are enshrined in the California Constitution for reasons that are just as compelling in 2023 as they were more than a century ago.

There are two ways to amend the constitution in California. The legislature can put a proposed amendment on the ballot, or citizens can collect signatures for an initiative constitutional amendment. Either way, once on the ballot, constitutional amendments pass with a simple majority vote, and always have in California, since 1849.

But ACA 13 would change that. Legislative constitutional amendments would still pass with a simple majority, but a citizens’ initiative constitutional amendment that requires a two-thirds vote for tax increases, such as Proposition 13 in 1978, would require a two-thirds vote to pass. Even Prop. 13 itself narrowly missed that threshold.

As noted above, the real target of ACA 13 is the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act. If approved by voters in November 2024, TPA will restore the original intent of several voter-approved taxpayer protection initiatives including Prop. 13, Prop. 218, and Prop. 26, all of which have been weakened by a tax-hungry legislature and a hostile judiciary.

Because the TPA initiative restores the two-thirds vote protection of Proposition 13, under ACA 13, it would have to be approved by a two-thirds vote of the statewide electorate. That is obviously more difficult to achieve and may leave taxpayers stuck paying the price for courts eroding Proposition 13.

Notably, California’s current Constitution (the California Constitution of 1879), as ratified by the voters on May 7, 1879, by a simple majority vote, contained at least two provisions requiring two-thirds voter approval including the requirement that local bonds be approved by “the assent of two thirds of the qualified electors.”

In fact, if the proposed ACA 13 standard were applied when the current California Constitution of 1879 was put before the voters, California would not have a constitution at all!  So, it is perfectly consistent with California’s constitution and history to have new constitutional amendments pass with a simple majority, even if those amendments require a super-majority vote to raise taxes.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Trump Mugshot Released After Surrendering in Georgia

Former President Donald Trump‘s mugshot has been released Thursday night.

The photo comes after Trump surrendered in Georgia after flying out of an airport in New Jersey. Jail records listed Trump as 6-foot-3 and at 215 pounds.

Trump, who served as the nation’s commander-in-chief from 2016 to 2020, has been booked on more than a dozen charges related to an alleged plan to overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential Election in Georgia.

The Georgia arrest marked the fourth criminal case against Trump since March 2023. Trump is the first former U.S. President to be indicted. In addition to the Georgia case, he also faces federal charges in Florida and Washington, D.C.

Trump is now in custody at Fulton County jail. A federal judge set up a Sept. 18 hearing for former Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark’s motion to move the Georgia case to federal court, according to FOX 11’s sister station WAGA-TV.

Earlier in the week, Rudy Giuliani had his mugshot released to the public after the former New York City Mayor turned himself in over the alleged push to overturn the 2020 Presidential Election results. Giuliani and Trump join 17 others who were indicted earlier in the month.

Giuliani is accused of spearheading Trump’s efforts to compel state lawmakers in Georgia and other closely contested states to illegally appoint electoral college electors favorable to Trump.

Giuliani has since been released from jail after posting bond. Like the former NYC Mayor, Trump is also back on the streets after posting bond.

Click here to read the full article at FOX 11 LA

After 16 years, California Roads and Transit are No longer labeled ‘high risk’

Getting roadways and transit removed from the State of California watch list took 16 years

While Southern California drivers may not have noticed due to the plethora of potholes created by excessive rainfall, the state’s roads are no longer sounding alarm bells.

That’s because for the first time in 16 years, the state’s highways, freeways and transit systems are off the “high-risk list.”

On Thursday, the California State Auditor removed the designation, attributing the passing grade to progress in repaving freeways, adding on-ramp and off-ramp meters, fixing bridges and unclogging culverts that results in better drainage.

“The auditor’s findings are a testament to the substantial progress Caltrans, the California Transportation Commission and our partners have made as we work together to improve and rebuild our state’s critical transportation infrastructure,” said California Transportation Secretary Toks Omishakin in a prepared statement.

Omishakin attributes the improvements to SB 1, the 2017 law that increased the gasoline excise tax and funnels about $5.4 billion each year toward transportation improvements. It was the first increase in the gasoline tax in 23 years and established a steady transportation funding source.

Since the state first was declared “high risk” in 2007, trade groups and the state auditor have been making dire predictions about a crumbling transportation infrastructure. In 2013, the auditor said it would take $290 billion to improve the state’s highways, roads and transit systems by 2023.

“We were at a high risk for not having enough money to maintain our roads,” explained Lauren Wonder, Caltrans spokesperson, on Thursday, Aug. 24. “SB1 gave us the stable funding source, adjusted the gas tax for inflation and established an inspector general who monitored progress each year.”

Caltrans listed the following projects completed with SB1 dollars:

• Repaved 15,000 lane miles on the state highway system resulting in 99% of pavement in good or fair condition.

• Fixed 1,512 bridges — bypassing the goal of repairing 500 bridges that was set in SB1.

• Repaired 578,285 linear feet of culverts, a three-fold jump from before SB1 became law, and cleaned out 1.6 million linear feet of culverts. About 90% of state highway and freeway drainage systems are listed in good or fair condition.

“Culverts are where the storm water goes,” said Wonder. “If you don’t have the proper-sized culverts, you will have water backed up onto the highway.”

But potholes are still making drivers’ lives miserable.

The Los Angeles Bureau of Street Services reported receiving 19,279 requests from December 2022 through early April 2023 to fix potholes. In early spring, it had repaired 17,459 of them.

Besides roads, SB1 funding also reached LA Metro, which uses the tax dollars for a variety of capital projects.

SB1 has contributed to funding the Gold Line (now A Line) extension to Pomona; and is adding funding to use for designing and eventually constructing the West Santa Ana Branch light-rail (from downtown Los Angeles to Artesia) and for improvements on the G (Orange) Line in the San Fernando Valley.

In addition, the added gasoline tax is helping to fund a new 57 Freeway and 60 Freeway interchange in Diamond Bar and City of Industry, improving truck lanes on the 5 Freeway in the Santa Clarita Valley and upgrading the 71 Freeway in Pomona.

Now that the state is no longer officially “high risk,” what’s next?

“It just means we are not being watched as ‘high risk.’ But we are not going to take the pedal off the metal. Caltrans will still make sure the transportation infrastructure is in working order,” Wonder said.

Besides state funding, California also has received federal transportation dollars.

Click here to read the full article in the Press Enterprise

California Parental Rights Battle Gets Louder

t was a tale of two opposing events on parents’ role in California schools — though one was postponed because of Tropical Storm Hilary.

In one corner was the California Family Council, a nonprofit, religious organization rallying at the state Capitol on Monday with pastors, attorneys and Sonja Shaw, Chino Valley Unified School District board president, to protest a series of bills they argue prevents parents from caring and overseeing their children. Many of the same people showed up at a similar rally last week; several Southern California school boards have been battling with Gov. Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Rob Bonta and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond over book bans and other culture wars in the classroom. 

  • Shaw: “The majority of Sacramento politicians are programmed and the political cartel of Newsom, Bonta and Thurmond have a stronghold on California’s public education and use that to push their ideology — but not for long.… All the wicked, low-class politicians following their lead, listen to us. This is from us. Today we stand here and declare in His almighty name that it’s only a matter of time before we take your seats.”

Shaw specifically called out two measures she says “silence us, the parents”: Assembly Bill 1078, which would raise the threshold for school boards to ban books, from a simple majority to two-thirds; and Senate Bill 596, which would fine individuals who “substantially” disrupt a school board meeting or harass school employees. (The bill joins a number of other bills that were placed in the suspense file last week.)

In the other corner was supposed to be Thurmond, a potential 2026 gubernatorial candidate, hosting an online panel at the same time about “inclusive education” with a handful of Democrats from the Legislature’s women, LGBTQ+, Black, Latino and Jewish caucuses. In June, the education department launched a Task Force on Inclusive Education focused on diversifying textbooks.

The event, which would “highlight efforts to create safe, supportive learning environments” for students, was canceled “out of respect for the individuals and locations impacted by the tropical storm,” according to the Department of Education. (Monday’s legislative floor sessions were also canceled due to the storm, reports KCRA.) A Thurmond roundtable about combating antisemitism is still on for Wednesday, however.

But Shaw was apparently unaware about the cancellation and called out Thurmond’s panel: “This is a spiritual battle. This is a warfare.”

This “battle” between Shaw and Thurmond is a familiar one: In July, Shaw successfully pushed a Chino Unified policy to require district teachers and staff to notify parents if a student requests to identify as a different gender or otherwise identifies as LGBTQ+. (It’s similar to a bill that was blocked in the Legislature this year.) Thurmond showed up at the meeting to oppose the policy and was ultimately escorted out by security after saying the measure would put “students at risk.”

The other bills the Family Council and Shaw are pushing back against are:

  • AB 5: Require the Department of Education to develop a training course for school employees on “LGBTQ cultural competency” (currently in the suspense file);
  • AB 665: Allow children 12 and older to receive “mental health treatment or counseling on an outpatient basis” without parental consent;
  • AB 957: Require judges to consider a parent’s affirmation of a child’s gender identity or expression when it comes to granting custody. 

More Capitol news: A proposed temporary $1.50 hike in Bay Area bridge tolls to fund public transit was put on pause Monday.

Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat who authored the bill, and Assemblymember Lori Wilson, a Suisun City Democrat who opposed it, jointly announced that SB 532 will be held until next year and that a group of Bay Area legislators will talk this fall about proposals to keep public transit agencies afloat to consider when the Legislature returns in January.

Wiener is acknowledging political reality: While what he called an “eleventh hour effort” had the backing of some local legislators, others were adamantly against making commuters pay more and seven Bay Area members of Congress were also opposed.

  • Wilson, in a statement: “Increasing tolls can be a significant burden to Bay Area commuters who are already dealing with high cost of living, inflation, and other expenses. From an equity perspective, tolls can have substantial repercussions especially for those where public transit is not a viable option.”

The bill would have raised tolls on seven Bay Area bridges for five years by $1.50 to $9.50, raising about $180 million a year. It was designed to supplement the $5.1 billion in public transit money in the state budget over four years, which included $400 million in new operational money for Bay Area transit agencies. But they need $2.5 billion in the next five years, according to Wiener. 

Speaking of money: Eleven local government leaders on Monday urged Gov. Newsom and the Legislature to add $1.5 billion to a proposed mental health services bond, with the additional cash set aside for cities and counties.

The group — which includes the mayors of Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco — says in a letter that the money “would allow us to serve tens of thousands more Californians who desperately need housing, treatment, and recovery resources.”

The current $4.7 billion bond issue is central to Gov. Newsom’s controversial plan to revamp mental health care and spend more on housing and services for homeless individuals.

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters

Gunfire at a California Biker Bar Kills 3 people, Plus Shooter, and Wounds 5 Others

TRABUCO CANYON, Calif. (AP) — Gunfire at a popular Southern California biker bar killed three people and wounded five others, and the gunman — believed to be a retired law enforcement officer — was fatally shot by deputies, authorities said.

Some people stood in disbelief and others ran when a sudden flurry of gunshots broke out Wednesday evening at Cook’s Corner, in Orange County’s rural Trabuco Canyon, a witness said.

“It was like a madhouse,” Betty Fruichantie, who was in the bar, told NBC4 Los Angeles. She said she believes the shooter was the husband of a friend who was with her in the bar.

Her friend, Marie, dropped to the floor, but Fruichantie didn’t know whether she was hit. With bullets flying past her face, Fruichantie ran and hid in a restroom with others.

“And when we came out, people were on the floor and people were like over people trying to help them, just holding their wounds,” she said.

William Mosby, of Lake Forest, told The Orange County Register outside Providence Mission Hospital that his daughter, named Marie, was taken to UCI Medical Center after being shot. He initially heard she had been killed, he told the newspaper.

“I’m extremely relieved,” Mosby said. “What I heard was the worst.”

Authorities arrived within two minutes of the first report of a shooting after 7 p.m., and the gunman was also soon dead, Orange County Sheriff’s Sgt. Frank Gonzalez said.

Dozens of patrol cars and ambulances swarmed the bar. Three other people and the gunman were pronounced dead at the scene.

Six others were taken to the hospital, five of them with gunshot wounds, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department posted on social media. Two were in critical condition, according to a statement from Providence Mission Hospital, in nearby Mission Viejo.

UCI Medical center confirmed in a statement that it received one patient from Providence Mission. It said there was no further information on that patient’s identity or condition.

The gunman was a retired officer with the Ventura Police Department, Cmdr. Mike Brown said the department was told by Orange County authorities, according to the Ventura County Star newspaper. He worked at the agency from 1986 to 2014, Brown said.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom was monitoring the shooting “and coordinating with local officials as more details become available,” his office tweeted.

Cook’s Corner has long been a place for motorcyclists to gather for live music, open-mic nights or just a cold beer after a long ride. It calls itself the oldest motorcycle bar in Southern California and hosts a regular Wednesday spaghetti night, with a band.

Hours before the shooting, rows of motorcycles and bikes framed the gravel entrance where plaques describe the bar’s history. It has become known as a community gathering spot for a wide range of people.

Click here to read the full article at AP News

‘Downright Orwellian’: San Jose church that was fined $1.2 million over violating COVID mandates sues county over surveillance

Calvary Chapel wants to make sure this doesn’t happen to another church

A San Jose church ordered to pay $1.2 million in fines for defying public health mandates at the height of the pandemic is suing Santa Clara County, accusing it of putting the non-denominational Christian church and its congregants under unconstitutional surveillance.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco by Calvary Chapel and its pastor, Mike McClure, alleges the county “embarked on an invasive and warrantless geofencing operation to track residents.”

“Our church believes in the rights and privacy of all our members,” McClure said in a statement about the lawsuit.

Geofencing uses cell phone data to track its users’ movements. In late 2020 and early 2021, the county used third-party phone data to monitor worshipers inside the Hillsdale Avenue church, according to court documents filed last November. The county’s COVID-19 Business Compliance Unit also parked a car in a neighboring church’s lot on numerous occasions for surveillance purposes.

The county’s inspectors made 44 visits to the church between August 2020 and January 2021 and found congregants gathering maskless in large indoor crowds in defiance of public health orders as COVID-19 cases skyrocketed, previous court records showed. The county’s initial orders at the start of the pandemic banned all indoor gatherings. But by May 2020, the church began holding indoor services with anywhere from 100 to 600 maskless attendees.

The county used data from the Denver-based company SafeGraph to compare the size of Calvary Chapel’s services from March 2020 to 2021 with other gatherings throughout the county, according to the November 2022 filing.

In its lawsuit, the church accuses the county of using geofencing for over a year without a warrant — an operation they called “not just un-American” but “downright Orwellian.”

“This type of expansive geofencing operation is not only an invasion of privacy but represents a terrifying precedent if allowed to go unaddressed,” the lawsuit stated.

Calvary Chapel alleges the county specifically targeted the church because of its “ongoing state enforcement action where it sought to weaponize potentially incriminating evidence against Calvary” and that the county has a “history of discrimination against religion and Calvary Chapel San Jose during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“The county consistently imposed harsher restrictions on churches and fined Calvary millions of dollars while overlooking other large gatherings,” the lawsuit said, specifically naming protests, weddings and graduation parties as other alleged offenders.

SafeGraph, at the direction of the county, put up two geofences around the church — one around the lawn and parking lots that stretched to adjacent streets, and the other around the church’s buildings, which included the sanctuary, Calvary Christian Academy and ministry housing, according to the lawsuit.

The church accuses the county of not narrowing the “search parameters of their geofencing operation,” which they claim allowed the county to gather data from congregants anywhere on the property, including classrooms, the sanctuary, the nursery and bathrooms.

Mariah Gondeiro, an attorney for Advocates for Faith and Freedom, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of Calvary Chapel, said the suit was filed to ensure the same measures are not used on another church.

“People of faith should never have to worry about the government spying on them in places of worship,” Gondeiro said in a statement.

Former County Counsel James Williams, who took over earlier this year as county executive, previously defended the county’s use of geofencing, asserting it isn’t unusual for enforcement officials to use technology to ensure businesses are in compliance. He maintained, however, that the county did not track individuals’ cell phones at the church.

In a statement to the Mercury News, the county said it “did not use cell phone surveillance to track anyone at Calvary Chapel during the pandemic.”

“What the allegations take out of context is the analysis of third-party, commercially available aggregate data that was used to respond to Calvary’s own allegations in a lawsuit that Calvary itself filed,” the county stated.

In its statement, the county also decried Calvary Chapel’s allegations that it discriminated against the church because of its religious beliefs, stating that “unlike the state of California or many other jurisdictions, the county’s health officer never issued any restrictions specific to churches or religious institutions whatsoever.”

“The county’s health officer protected the public during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the time before widespread vaccination, by implementing public health measures that were uniform and identical according to the health risks of the activity occurring, regardless of their purpose or type of facility.”

The county and Calvary Church have been locked in a legal battle since 2020 over public health rules. In 2020, the church sued the county, arguing that COVID-19 mandates violated its religious freedoms. In response, the county sued the church, arguing that they owed $2.87 million in fines for violating public health orders. In November 2020, a judge issued a temporary restraining order against the church for gathering despite the public health rules.

Since then, the two parties have been engaged in several other back-and-forth legal tussles over the fines in local, state and federal courts.

An April ruling by Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Evette D. Pennypacker ordering the church to pay $1.2 million in fines is the latest development in the saga. Though the county sought nearly $3 million in fines, the judge reduced the fine to a specific period — November 2020 to June 2021– when the church was not following the county’s mask policy.

Click here to read the full article in the Mercury News

Push for reparations in California takes significant step forward

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — After a two-year comprehensive study by the California Reparations Task Force, the push for reparations for some Black Californians has taken a monumental step forward. While the final report of California’s first-in-the-nation Reparations Task Force – exceeding 1,000 pages – only contained recommendations, Senator Steven Bradford of Southern California is pushing for tangible change.

State Senator Steven Bradford, one of the nine task force members, announced on Tuesday the introduction of an amendment to SB 490 aiming to establish a “Freedmen Affairs Agency.” The agency is a crucial element of the Reparations Task Force’s suggestions. If approved, the agency would manage a range of services, including a genealogy office to support potential reparations claimants in proving eligibility, a Freedmen Savings and Trust Bank, business grants, employment training, and housing assistance, and much more. However, certain aspects of the agency could require further legislative endorsement, especially the processing of claims for direct compensation.

The senator, due to term out in two years, expressed his determination to see reparations become a reality in a statement. “Reparations are not a gift – they are what was promised, owed, and overdue,” said Senator Bradford. He emphasized the nation’s long history of wage theft through slavery and appealed to his colleagues for support.

The amendment to SB 490 won’t be heard until California’s next legislative cycle in 2024.

Senator Bradford joined ABC7 News anchor race and culture reporter Julian Glover on our 5:30 p.,. streaming newscast to discuss. Watch the full segment in the video player above.

Click here to read the full article at ABC 7

Hotel Guests are Caught In Middle

Morning drumming, disrupted nuptials, violence — it’s no vacation for L.A. visitors during strike.

Children shrieked and splashed in the water, and a couple on an anniversary staycation floated at the edge of the hotel pool, nursing their blended beverages.

Alea Britain had checked into Hotel Maya the night before and was planning to spend the day jet-skiing with friends. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary since Britain had arrived at the waterfront Hilton property overlooking the Long Beach skyline.

“I had no idea there was a strike,” she said. “I haven’t noticed anything.”

But a few hours later that Friday, it was unmistakable — drums, megaphones, striking workers marching to demand higher wages and better working conditions.

“Our fight is to keep a roof over our heads,” shouted union leader Ada Briceño during the Aug. 11 protest, speaking for the 15,000 hotel employees striking for a new contract. “We are, right now, one paycheck away from homelessness. We are, right now, living in our cars.”

More than six weeks since the rolling strikes began, this had become the defining tableau of L.A.’s summer of labor — workers chanting in red T-shirts as guests, some appearing perplexed, others a bit sheepish, lug their suitcases past them and into the lobby.

The writers’ and actors’ strikes will take a while to reach consumers still enthralled by “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer,” blockbusters finished before the twin work stoppages in Hollywood. But the series of hotel walkouts, which began during the busy weekend before the Fourth of July, hit travelers right away.

This summer, tourists visiting Disneyland,the Anime Expo and the L.A. leg of Taylor Swift’s Eras tour have often been greeted outside their hotels by picketing workers represented by Unite Here Local 11. But because the strikes have happened in waves, targeting hotels in different regions on different days, some tourists, even those who see themselves as ardently pro-union, haven’t always known quite how to respond.

The union sent out a news release last week asking people to boycott three hotels where violence had flared against strikers, including Hotel Maya, where a picketer was recently punched in the head during a chaotic altercation at a wedding. But before that, the union had adopted a distinctly quieter stance, merely listing the hotels without contracts on its website and asking that people “not patronize” them.

Although some Southern California hotel customers did change their plans, others — especially those visiting from out of town — said they either didn’t know about the strike or had booked nonrefundable stays ahead of time. In online reviews for the hotels targeted for strikes, several guests vented frustrations with both hotel management and picketing employees in the contract dispute.

“If you want to have a peaceful vacation choose another location,” wrote a tourist who stayed at 1 Hotel West Hollywood in August.

“Pay your workers!” wrote another, who left a two-star review for the Holiday Inn Los Angeles LAX Airport, noting that protesters showed up around 5 a.m. “I know that workers don’t want to do this and don’t want to disturb guests, but they’re left no choice.”

Another visitor, who stayed at the hotel while in town to see Swift, criticized what she called “abrupt behavior” from the strikers and complimented the hotel for blaring Swift’s music to drown out their chants.

“This is awesome customer service,” she wrote. (The hotel responded: “We truly appreciate your wonderful comments!”)


Emma Eblen was on her couch recovering from COVID-19 and scrolling through email when she spotted a subject line that said “Congrats!”

When she was finally convinced it wasn’t a scam, the 30-year-old began to shake with excitement and dialed her friend with the news: She’d won a pair of tickets to see Swift in L.A. through a giveaway hosted by Capital One. They immediately searched for hotels and chose the Los Angeles Airport Marriott because a chartered bus could pick them up there and take them to the stadium.

It was a bit odd that the hotel reservation was nonrefundable, she recalled thinking at the time, but for two nights at around $800, the friends decided it was their best bet. It wasn’t until a week before the trip, while searching a Facebook group for concertgoers, that the Olympia, Wash., resident learned of the strike.

“Oh, my God,” Eblen thought, her mind immediately jumping to her parents, both members of a theater union. “Crossing a picket is one of the worse things I could ever think of.”

But there were almost no options left on Airbnb, and she knew she couldn’t afford to eat the cost of the nonrefundable reservation. Winning the tickets had felt like a dream — she couldn’t stop thinking about her 15-year-old self crying along to “Teardrops on My Guitar” on the radio years earlier — but now she felt sick with guilt at even the thought of crossing a picket line.

In the end, it never came to that; although other hotels in the Marriott chain were picketed, hers was not. Still, she said, she’d been awakened by 6 a.m. chants from picketers at a hotel across the street.

As part of its strategy, the union has targeted events expected to draw thousands to the region, including the annual meeting of the American Political Science Assn., and Swift herself.

In a plea to the pop icon, whose out-of-town fans boost hotel prices in the cities she visits, the union borrowed the name of one of her albums. “Speak Now!” their letter reads, “stand with hotel workers and postpone your concerts.”

A few days after releasing the public letter to Swift, whose six sold-out concerts went on as planned, the union again drew headlines, filing a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board highlighting what it called a pattern of violent incidents and property destruction at picket lines. It specifically listed the three hotels it has now asked people to boycott — Hotel Maya, Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica and Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa in Dana Point.

In late July at the Dana Point hotel, Maria Hernandez, who works as an assistant server at the hotel’s Knife Modern Steak restaurant, said she spotted celebrity chef John Tesar, who runs the restaurant, walking toward the picket line. She began recording on her cellphone as he walked toward her and flipped her off.

“Take your union, and shove it up your,” he says, punctuating his delivery with an expletive and then hurling an insult at her in Spanish. “You’re a bad person. You’re a lazy pendeja.”

After that, Hernandez said, he snatched a drumstick out of her hands. She told him she knew who he was and that what he was doing wasn’t right, she said, and he then told her that he would recognize her when she came back to work.

“I was afraid,” she said, “that I would get into trouble or get fired.”

In an interview, Tesar said that while staying at the hotel during a vacation with his three children — 12, 5 and 2 — protesters had jeered at, filmed and made hand gestures toward him and his children, calling him a “terrible person.” In the days since then, he said, he’s received several death threats and been called a racist.

The former “Top Chef” contestant acknowledged that, after a protester flipped him off on the last morning of his stay, he used a metal spoon to break the picketer’s drum.

“I was protecting my children,” he said. “I’m anything but a racist. … I’m a New Yorker, I’m sorry, I speak in profanities. I’m a chef. We curse in the kitchen. I apologize if it offended anybody.”

After Maisha Hudson and Shawn Parker got engaged, the bride-to-be reached out to a wedding planner she knew from her college sorority, who sent over a list of potential venues.

Intent on a waterfront view, the Inglewood couple picked Hotel Maya, and in January, six months before the strike began, the couple signed a contract and put down a deposit to reserve their August date, according to interviews with Maisha Hudson-Parker, as she’s now known, and her wedding planner, Deborah Croom.

It wasn’t until Aug. 1, four days before her ceremony, the bride said, that she learned from the hotel that there might be strikers there on the day of her wedding. With friends and relatives flying in from across the country, shifting to a different location on short notice felt impossible — friends had scrambled to move a wedding in 72 hours last year, she said, and ended up paying $70,000.

Hotel managers apologized for the inconvenience, Hudson-Parker said, but assured her she wouldn’t be able to hear anything because the picketers often gathered in the front of the hotel, not at the back of the property near the water, where the ceremony would take place.

Not long after sunrise on her wedding day, she woke to the sound of bullhorns, and the hotel offered to move the ceremony into an indoor ballroom. But it would have been a tight squeeze for her 226 guests, the bride said, and she’d picked the venue specifically for the outdoor view of the water.

Instead, the hotel put up mobile metal fencing to block the outdoor ceremony area from a publicly accessible pathway along the shoreline. Before the ceremony, the bride said, a few of her guests asked the striking workers if they’d mind pausing their picket for 30 minutes so the couple could exchange vows in quiet. They refused, she said, leaving her and many of her guests — among them union members and supporters — in an unenviable position.

The bride said she’d donated water bottles during the Los Angeles teachers’ strike and had friends in the writers’ strike. Croom said she spent much of the day thinking of her parents, who were union members — her mother a teacher, her father working in the shipyards — and heard their voices in her head: “You should never cross the picket line.” But by the time they learned the venue was one of the locations to be picketed, both women said, payments had already been finalized and guests were preparing to fly out.

On the afternoon of the ceremony, as guests mingled in the outdoor plaza decorated with bouquets of burnt orange and crimson flowers, smooth music crooning from the speakers competed with the sound of drums and picketers chanting, “Hotel Maya, escucha, estamos en la lucha.” (Hotel Maya, listen, we are in the fight.)

Frustrated, wedding guests began to record videos of the picketers gathered on the other side of the fencing. “They’re trying to mess up her wedding,” one guest says in a recording shared with The Times.

Another clip shows a moment of commotion, as the mobile fencing gets hoisted into the air and people rush toward it from both sides. On the other side of the fence, a man in a black shirt — described by the union in a tweet as a hotel guest — runs up to a picketer and pummels him on the side of the head.

Carlos Cheverri Canalés, the worker who was punched, said in an interview that he thinks he lost consciousness briefly because the next thing he remembered was waking up to shouts. Recently hired as a line cook in the hotel’s lounge, he said, he didn’t yet have health insurance and was worried about medical bills.

“I was punched in the head,” he said, “for trying to have a voice.”

Another worker on the picket line that day, David Ventura, said he saw security guards, at the direction of a nearby manager, abruptly lift the chain link fencing, ramming it toward the workers. Worried that people might get knocked over, the bellman said, he rushed forward to help his co-workers.

“I was trying to take care of my people,” he said. “It would behoove the owners to do right by us at the bargaining table.”

In a statement, the Long Beach Police Department — whose officers arrived at the scene and eventually escorted the bride, in her flowing, ivory-colored gown, into the ceremony area — said four demonstrators were injured by a man who also destroyed a speaker. Police said the suspect, whom the bride said she didn’t know, fled before police arrived.

At one point, the bride said, she had tears in her eyes and asked a protester to please respect her wedding. “He yelled at me,” Hudson-Parker said, “and told me I should have known this was coming.”

The ceremony started an hour and a half late, which squeezed the timeline for photos and cost her the time to dance with some of her elderly guests who left once it got dark.

The hotel has apologized, Hudson-Parker said, acknowledging it wasn’t properly prepared. The hotel’s director of human resources did not respond to requests for comment, and two other executives declined to comment. In an email about the incident to elected officials, Heather Rozman, president of the Hotel Assn. of Los Angeles, wrote that “guests had to be protected by both hotel security and Long Beach Police because of threats leading up to the wedding ceremony.”

Asked about the incident, a union spokesperson contended that workers were fully within their rights to protest by the wedding and that guests frustrated or inconvenienced by the strike should focus their blame on management.

“It’s the hotel’s responsibility,” spokesperson Maria Hernandez said.

During the protest at the hotel almost a week later, picketers unfurled a bold red banner reading “Boycott.”

As the workers marched in circles, volunteers from the National Lawyers Guild’s legal observers program, called as a precaution by the union after the wedding altercation, meandered through the crowd with notebooks. Off to the side, several hotel managers and executives watched.

Jesus Grimaldo, 79, who has worked at Hotel Maya for nearly four decades, addressed the crowd in Spanish. His health is failing — he’s a cancer survivor twice over and recently had a heart attack — but he can’t afford to retire, he said, because his $20-an-hour wage is too low. He supports his wife, as well as his daughter and grandchild, who live with them.

“What we are asking for,” he said, “is fair and just.”

A few guests observed from the lobby.

One of them, Christopher Ricci, who was in town for a convention put on by Kawai Pianos, owns a small piano store in Rhode Island. The brief boost in profits sparked by people’s COVID-19 lockdown-era hobbies had long ago disappeared, he said, and business was again on the decline.

“I feel empathy for them,” he said of the striking workers. “The way things are with inflation, you’ve got to try to pay people what they deserve.”

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

California Library Silences Speaker for Saying Men Shouldn’t Be Allowed in Women’s Sports

A California librarian kicked out female rights advocate Sophia Lorey for “misgendering” biological men who identify as transgender during a speech Sunday, according to a video of the incident.

Lorey, a member of the California Family Council, an organization that advocates fairness in women’s sports and parental rights, was speaking at an event entitled “Forum on Fair and Safe Sports for Girls” at the Mary L. Stephens Davis Branch Library in Davis, California. Her topic was fairness in the context of biological males who compete in girls’ or women’s sports.

California state law recognizes trans women as women,” one librarian can be heard saying in the video. “Our policy talks about treating people with respect, and if you are misgendering somebody, that is not respectful.”

Another person can be heard shouting that he doesn’t want any biological men who identify as women being called men, citing the library’s code of conduct.

Riley Gaines, a women’s rights advocate and former NCAA swimmer, chimed in, saying: “This is ridiculous, but not shocking … a female athlete silenced for calling a spade a spade.”

Lorey said her “dream” as a young girl was to be a college soccer player.

“But current 10-year-old girls cannot live out this same dream as long as men are allowed to compete in women’s sports,” Lorey said.

“Allowing biological men in women’s sports does not create an equal playing field, [and] instead robs young biological girls of their athletic aspirations,” she said.

She is then interrupted by shouting in the room, according to the video. Erin Friday, a lawyer represwenting Lorey who says she is a Democrat, approached the podium.

“We all have First Amendment rights, whether you believe in what I believe or whether I believe in what you believe,” Friday said.

Lorey and Friday then left the event after Scott Love, director of the library, told them they were not allowed to speak further because of “misgendering.”

Click here to read the full article at the Daily Signal

Attorney John Eastman Surrenders to Authorities on Charges in Georgia 2020 Election Subversion Case

ATLANTA (AP) — John Eastman, the conservative attorney who pushed a plan to keep Donald Trump in power, turned himself in to authorities Tuesday on charges in the Georgia case alleging an illegal plot to overturn the former president’s 2020 election loss.

Eastman was booked at the Fulton County jail and is expected to have an arraignment set in the coming weeks in the sprawling racketeering case.

He was indicted last week alongside Trump and 17 others, who are accused by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis of scheming to subvert the will of Georgia voters in a desperate bid to keep Joe Biden out of the White House. It was the fourth criminal case brought against the Republican former president.

Trump, whose bond was set Monday at $200,000, has said he will surrender to authorities in Fulton County on Thursday. His bond conditions prohibit him from intimidating co-defendants, witnesses or victims in the case, including on social media. He has a history of attacking the prosecutors leading the cases against him, including Willis, often using racist language and stereotypes.

Eastman said in a statement provided by his lawyers that he was surrendering Tuesday “to an indictment that should never have been brought.” He lambasted the indictment for targeting “attorneys for their zealous advocacy on behalf of their clients” and said each of the 19 defendants was entitled to rely on the advice of lawyers and past legal precedent to challenge the results of the election.

A former dean of Chapman University law school in Southern California, Eastman was a close adviser to Trump in the run-up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by the president’s supporters intent on halting the certification of Biden’s electoral victory. He wrote a memo laying out steps Vice President Mike Pence could take to interfere in the counting of electoral votes while presiding over Congress’ joint session on Jan. 6 in order to keep Trump in office.

The indictment alleges that Eastman and others pushed to put in place a slate of “alternate” electors falsely certifying that Trump won and tried to pressure Pence into rejecting or delaying the counting of legitimate electoral votes for Biden, a Democrat.

Bail bondsman Scott Hall, who was accused of participating in a breach of election equipment in rural Coffee County, also turned himself in to the Fulton County Jail on Tuesday morning.

Two other defendants, former Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark and former Georgia Republican Party chair David Shafer, have filed paperwork to transfer the case to federal court. Willis has filed paperwork in Fulton County Superior Court, where the indictment was filed, seeking a March 4 trial date. Legal maneuvering, such as the attempts to move the case to federal court, could make it difficult to start a trial that soon.

Lawyers for Clark argued in a court filing Monday that he was a high-ranking Justice Department official and the actions described in the indictment “relate directly to his work at the Justice Department as well as with the former President of the United States.” Shafer’s attorneys argued that his conduct “stems directly from his service as a Presidential Elector nominee,” actions they say were “at the direction of the President and other federal officers.”

Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows last week made similar arguments in a federal court filing, saying his actions were taken in service to his White House role.

Clark was a staunch supporter of Trump’s false claims of election fraud and in December 2020 presented colleagues with a draft letter pushing Georgia officials to convene a special legislative session on the election results, according to testimony before the U.S. House committee that investigated the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Clark wanted the letter sent, but Justice Department superiors refused.

Click here to read the full article in AP News