California’s Reparations Scam: Michael Jackson’s Kids Would Get Payouts

California’s reparations con game is like a Nigerian Prince email scam

In 2020 the California legislature passed AB 3121 which created a 9-person task force to study California’s “complicity in slavery.” The task force would also be authorized to make recommendations to the state legislature about payments – also known as reparations.

Even if one could prove the dubious theory that the economic state of Blacks today is a result of America’s legacy of slavery, the state of California wouldn’t be the first place or even the second place to focus on this slavery.  Since 1850 when California became a state its Constitution expressly forbid slavery, and it never supported the Confederacy during the Civil War.

It turns out that though California didn’t promote slavery, today it is one of the places willing to entertain bad ideas, however.

Rather than focus on how California’s poor public schools have failed poor Blacks and white alike? Or how its anti-business regulatory climate has eroded the ability of its poorer residents to climb out of poverty and into the middle class, elites in the state have moved to distract disadvantaged voters with the reparations con.

This high-stakes con game will prove no more beneficial to Blacks in California than the typical recipients of the Nigerian Prince email scam.

The Reparations Task Force has already pledged that nearly 80 percent of California’s 2.6 million Black residents will be granted reparations. The task force cannot achieve this goal – even if it was legal, which it is not.

First, the math simply doesn’t work. Consider: if all of the ‘eligible’ Blacks in California were merely given $1000 in reparations the cost to California would exceed $2 billion.  But that compensation would in no way equal the staggering claims made by the racial alarmists that push for reparations. $1,000 would be a pittance of the injuries that they claim that blacks have faced in California.

Using questionable calculations that wouldn’t get a passing grade in junior high, the task force has estimated that the “compounded” injury to Blacks that have lived their entire lives in California would equal 100k for every year of their residency in the state.  Consider, for just one year of reparations using this measure, the state would be on the hook for $200 billion – out of a 300 billion state budget as of 2022.  The median age of Blacks in California is 36.5.  When you factor in that median age payouts equal nearly a trillion.  There is no scenario where this will occur.

Second, who should receive payments? Per the decision of the task force, only Blacks who are descendants of slavery are eligible. Persons born outside of the U.S. aren’t eligible. 

But should all others be eligible? What about Michael Jackson’s kids? Should his oldest son Michael “Prince” Joseph Jackson, Jr. receive a payment? Using the online calculator set up by the reparations task force he’d be eligible for a half a million payout. This despite there being no evidence that he has ever faced discrimination because he is the son of a black man. And the same is true for his siblings. Yet the task force would also award the three more than a cool million. In fact, the task force hasn’t set up any criteria other than race for eligibility. Has in fact every black descendant of slavery suffered injury? The task force says yes, but they present no evidence to prove their claims.

Merely being black is a sufficient basis for getting a payment per the task force.  But who is Black? Do recipients self-select and declare themselves black? Will California restore the odious “one drop rule” and decide that any black descendant is sufficient to make someone black? Alternatively, will the state of California use visual inspectors a la Plessy v Ferguson to sort out who is who? Or must recipients submit DNA samples to show their heritage?

Whatever method California adopts is fraught with danger. As a melting pot nation, black Americans have intermarried at higher and higher rates over the last 100 years and not every one of those children born of such unions identify as black.  Increasingly Americans of all stripes identify as other proving that forcing people to choose being only black is completely unworkable.

Finally, the task forces objectives are illegal. Courts are highly skeptical of any public policy effort that relies primarily on race to provide a benefit or detriment.  There was a time when “separate but equal” was the law of the land. But that ruling was overturned and today after a long line of rulings starting with Brown v. Board of Education, even modest raced-based policies are highly scrutinized.

Whatever method California adopts is fraught with danger. As a melting pot nation, black Americans have intermarried at higher and higher rates over the last 100 years and not every one of those children born of such unions identify as black.  Increasingly Americans of all stripes identify as other proving that forcing people to choose being only black is completely unworkable.

Finally, the task forces objectives are illegal. Courts are highly skeptical of any public policy effort that relies primarily on race to provide a benefit or detriment.  There was a time when “separate but equal” was the law of the land. But that ruling was overturned and today after a long line of rulings starting with Brown v. Board of Education, even modest raced-based policies are highly scrutinized.

Click here to read the full article in FoxNews

Gavin Newsom Eliminates Vote-by-Mail — for Farmworker Union Elections

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a law Monday that will eliminate vote-by-mail in elections for union certification by farm workers, under a deal that will allow organizers to use a “card check” system instead.

Newsom, who owns a winery himself, signed the law, AB 113, under a deal he struck with unions last year under pressure from labor organizers and Democratic leaders, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

Originally, Newsom sounded almost like Donald Trump as he objected to the vulnerability of vote-by-mail to fraud. He vetoed a bill last year to allow vote-by-mail in union elections because he said that he could not “support an untested mail-election process that lacks critical provisions to protect the integrity of the election.”

Farmworkers led a series of protests in response, including a march to the infamous French Laundry restaurant in Napa, where Newsom dined maskless with lobbyists right after issuing pandemic guidelines telling other Californians not to to to restaurants. Newsom relented and signed a bill allowing vote-by-mail and other provisions, under the understanding that the vote-by-mail provision would be repealed the following year.

One of those provisions is “card check,” which allows labor organizers to approach workers personally to sign a card or cast a ballot for union certification. It is a system that critics — including some liberal Democrats, like the late left-wing presidential nominee George McGovern — denounced as a violation of the secret ballot.

The bill limits the number of “card check” elections to 75, and gives the unions a Jan. 1, 2028 deadline to hold them.

California adopted automatic vote-by-mail in its regular elections in 2020, over the objections of Republicans.

Click here to read the full article in BreitbartCA

Equity vs. Equality: California Reparations Commission Wants to Legalize Racial Discrimination

Newsom-backed task force recommends nixing Proposition 209, which prohibits discrimination

“With a ‘Reparations Management Council’ to operate independent of the government of San Francisco, what could possibly go wrong?” the Globe asked earlier this week.

San Francisco resident Richie Greenberg has identified that the San Francisco Reparations Plan “installs a neo-Apartheid system on a city of 45,000 Black/African-American residents being given super-prioritized services, funding and extraordinary privilege – out of total city population of 825,000. The result is Apartheid San Francisco, where 5% Black residents take the resources and economic earnings of the 95% non-Black residents.”

As the Globe reported in January, both the San Francisco African American Reparations Advisory Committee and State Reparations Task Force are expanding reparations beyond slavery. It’s become a grab and hustle for all grievances. But where does this end?

Buckle up and hold on tightly – they said the quiet parts aloud: “the racial wealth gap in the state of California.”

As the Globe reported in December, Reparations task force member Jovan Scott Lewis said: “Spoiler-alert: We don’t yet know the racial wealth gap in the state of California.” This is the preliminary conversation to figure out what we know and what we don’t know.”

Remember this: “Racial wealth gap.”

Another task force member Dr. Cheryl Grills said: “Racial terror leads to racial trauma … also known as race-based traumatic stress.”

Fox News now reports that the statewide California Reparations Task Force, created by legislation signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, formally recommended that the state legislature repeal Proposition 209, a constitutional amendment that prohibits the government from discriminating against, or granting preferential treatment to, someone based on their race.

Proposition 209, a ban on affirmative action, was passed by California voters in 1996, and prohibits discrimination or preferential treatment by the state, public universities, public employment, or other public entities, and banned affirmative action policies.

In 2020, voters even reaffirmed the ban on affirmative action policies and practices by voting down Proposition 16, 57% to 42%. Prop. 16 qualified for the ballot when ACA 5, authored by then-Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), was passed by the California legislature in 2020. If passed, Prop. 16 would have repealed Proposition 209.

Imagine the coincidence that the statewide reparations committee is the result of legislation also authored by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), Assembly Bill 3121, passed in 2021.

So it now appears that the California Reparations Task Force has taken up the affirmative action mantle and will backdoor granting preferential treatment based on race via their final recommendations to the California Legislature.

However, as we reported in January, both the San Francisco and state Reparations committees are seriously neglecting the state’s rich ethnic history, favoring race hustling instead.

A local historian friend sent this:

“Before and during the Civil War militia companies were ethnic, generally social groups with others from the ‘old country’ such as German, Irish, and Italian companies all over northern California. This was not then considered segregation, it was a place to socialize with those of similar backgrounds. Sacramento had a black militia company in that era. Many from those units joined the California Volunteers and fought in the eastern battles.
In the [Sacramento] Land Park area (there is a monument marker in the park) was Camp Union Sutterville where seven regiments of infantry, two regiments of cavalry, and smaller specialized units were trained and participated primarily in two Union moves. One was to replace regular army troops in the west and they garrisoned posts all the way to Salt Lake City, founding an army base in that area that is still active. The other went to southern California and joined units raised in that area. Confederates had occupied what is now Arizona and New Mexico up to the California border. Camp Union troops were involved with pushing them back into Texas and when the war ended Sacramento troops were well established in that state.”

Every kid in California should know this.

As Fox reported:

“The [statewide reparations] task force highlights a study commissioned by the far-left Equal Justice Society, an organization of which a task force member is president, that concluded between $1 billion and $1.1 billion in contract dollars were lost annually by businesses owned by women and people of color due to Proposition 209. The task force’s report also argued admissions declined for Black applicants ‘at every campus.’”

“According to UCLA law professor Richard Sander, however, the number of Black graduates from the University of California had risen 70% above pre-Proposition 209 levels by 2017. That same year, he wrote, the number of STEM graduates rose from an annual average of around 200 before Proposition 209 to 510. The figure increased to 558 in 2018.”

“It is unclear how repealing a measure that bars discrimination or preferential treatment based on race would help combat racial discrimination,” Fox concluded. Indeed.

This topic isn’t going away, and the left isn’t giving up. A bill last year by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, and 52 House Democrats sought reparations and a national apology for slavery. They are still pushing to set up a commission to “examine slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies,” the New York Post reported.

As the Globe reported in December, the state Reparations Task Force is already pulling a bait-and-switch on Californians –  with talk of a “racial wealth gap,” “racial terror,” “race-based traumatic stress,” and “guaranteed income for dependents of slaves.” But what they are really promoting is social justice reparations and nothing more than a redistribution of wealth.

California has very serious problems that lawmakers seem disinterested in fixing:

  • California is home to one-third of the nations’ welfare recipients and has the highest poverty;
  • Our failing schools now rank 48th in the country;
  • California lawmakers can’t build new homes or apartments for less than $800,000 each (luxury level costs);
  • The governor and lawmakers can’t figure out what to do with several hundred thousand drug-addicted, mentally ill homeless vagrants living on city streets and taking over public parks;
  • California lawmakers refuse to build additional reservoirs for water storage in a state in which drought conditions are historically normal, and now has a regular wildfire “season;”
  • California lawmakers and governor mandated all electric vehicles within a few years, but can’t keep the power on during heat spells and winter storms;
  • Lawmakers authorized more than $25 million worth of taxpayer-funded guaranteed income to some individuals in the state, but can’t really tell you why.

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Governor Newsom’s Budget Deficit Has Climbed To $31.5 Billion

California budget balloons to record $306 billion

Governor Gavin Newsom announced Friday that the state’s budget deficit has ballooned by $9 billion, going from the initial January estimate of $22.5 billon to $31.5 billion, leading to more major cuts being implemented next fiscal year.

In total, the state budget is now looking to be around $306 billion, up from an estimated $297 billion in January. While Gavin Newsom proposed many major cuts at the beginning of the year, multiple factors quickly made the situation worse and called for more. Initially, big cuts had been planned for state flood prevention programs, as the state was in a major drought and those funds would not be needed. However, record rain and snowfall throughout the state in the first three months of 2023 quickly quashed those plans, with more money actually being poured into those programs because of the resulting floods and poor winter conditions.

The storms also dealt the state a major funding delay, as the state allowed most residents to pay taxes later in the year from due to problems associated with the storms and subsequent flooding. While this will help the 2024-2025 fiscal year, it also means that  billions less would be going into the state this coming year, as the deadline is now in October rather than the usual April.

As around half of California’s income comes from the top 1% of earners as well as major businesses in the state. Higher federal inflation rates, a chaotic stock market, and many wealthier Californians leaving the state also came together and added to the increased deficit.

With an even larger deficit looming, Newsom announced plans for major cuts to the budget on Friday, in addition to moving around expenses, using emergency funds, and increasing the amount borrowed. While not specifically mentioned by Newsom on Friday, recent decisions, such as not supporting cash payments in possible reparations and rolling back on previous state commitments on environmental funding, are likely tied to Newsom’s increased frugality because of the increased deficit.

“We are walking into a budget where we need to maintain our prudence,” Newsom said on Friday. “We have a $31.5 billion challenge, which is well within the margin of expectation and well within our capacity to address.”

For the last few years, California coming back from the COVID-19 pandemic brought in tens of billions of “surplus cash,” including one year seeing a record $97.5 billion. However, much of this was spent on stimulus funding for residents and other one-time spending projects, including major homeless initiatives. Now stuck with an even larger deficit than originally planned, Newsom also showed where major cuts would likely be happening.

Most surprising was his reversal on climate and energy projects, with Newsom, saying that $6 billion will be cut in the coming year. If approved by the Legislature, it would amount to a 11% cut in climate-related programs. This would include a $1.1 billion cut to electric vehicle transitioning programs. Environmental groups quickly went after Newsom on Friday, seeing these cuts as something of a betrayal.

Major cuts, funding halts on the horizon

“While we’re grateful to Governor Newsom for avoiding further cuts to climate and clean energy investments, California has major challenges ahead,” said Nicole Rivera, Government Affairs Director for The Climate Center, in a statement. “Winter storms and flooding cost the state billions of dollars this year and an El Niño system is expected to bring record-breaking heat and deadly wildfires this summer and fall. We’re in a climate emergency and we need to do everything we can to prepare, not slash funding for programs designed to keep Californians safe from climate extremes.”

“We urge Governor Newsom and the legislature to find ways to close the deficit without cutting $6 billion in climate investments. It is encouraging that state leaders are exploring a climate bond to generate revenue. We hope they will also commit to eliminating the millions of dollars in subsidies and tax breaks for fossil fuel corporations. Governor Newsom and state lawmakers have a choice to make — hold fossil fuel corporations accountable for the mess they made or pay the price in lives in dollars for years to come.”

Other cuts include temporarily delaying subsidized child care program expansions, funds for small businesses to help with lingering debt, further cuts to education by reducing arts funding, and ending middle class tax refund and low-income utility assistance programs early. While other solutions have been proposed, such as increased taxes on corporations, Newsom has shut them down, favoring the cut and increased bond plan to keep the state afloat for a year.

“We had a $54 billion deficit in 2020, huge surpluses in 2021 and 2022, and now are back down to a big deficit,” explained accountant Lee Greenman, a California-based accountant who helps city and other regional entities fix budget problems, to the Globe on Friday. “It’s crazy. And the state doesn’t think long-term. For cities, mot have a rule of thumb to put surplus money away during good times to help out during the leaner years or to avoid having to go to residents to pass some emergency measures in November.”

“The state, wow, they just see a surplus and decide to just spend it rather than save it for times just like this. It’s not that sustainable. Yet they continue to do so. But they’ve chased out many wealthy people, raised taxes, put a squeeze on businesses, drastically increased spending, then thought it was a good idea to just give a stimulus. And that’s only some of the things. All of it added up to something bad happening, and, well, here we are.”

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Gavin Newsom’s Latest Budget Speeds Up Food Benefits Timeline for Undocumented Californians

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest budget moves up the issuance of food benefits for older undocumented Californians after months of criticism from advocates.

The announcement marks a significant change of course for Newsom, who in January proposed a state spending plan that would delay the assistance rollout for undocumented immigrants over 55 until 2027. He held back the money as his administration sought to close the forecast budget gap.

On Friday, Newsom released his revised budget proposal with a shortfall that had increased to $31.5 billion.

But the revision led to a positive outcome for advocates, who had said that California was moving farther away from its goal of becoming the first state to offer food benefits to all undocumented immigrants. Newsom’s new budget proposal now says benefit distribution is estimated to begin in Oct 2025.

Advocates hope this is a step that keeps the goal within reach.

“We see this updated timeline as a welcome sign of progress,” said Benyamin Chao, a health and public benefits policy manager at the California Immigrant Policy Center. “But our leaders still need to act more urgently to address the stark levels of food insecurity that is impacting Californians, especially the most vulnerable.”

The revision included $40 million for automation and outreach to achieve that goal, $5 million higher than January’s outlay. Expansion has been contingent on the state converting to a single system, known as the California Statewide Automated Welfare System migration. The process is now estimated to be finished by July.

About 75,000 Californians are expected to start receiving benefits when the rollout begins, according to a 2022 report by the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

The latest timeline for food assistance comes as two lawmakers are pushing for bills that would provide state-funded food benefits to all Californians currently ineligible due to their immigration status.

Sen. Melissa Hurtado, D-Sanger, has re-introduced the Food For All act, Senate Bill 245, for the second consecutive year. And Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, introduced an identical version in his chamber as AB 311.

Neither of the two bills includes dates for implementation.

But advocates cite a urgent need for food assistance expansion. Nearly half of undocumented Californians deal with food insecurity, according to an April 2022 report by Nourish California.

“No one should experience hunger because of their immigration status, yet hundreds of thousands of Californians struggling to put food on the table remain unjustly excluded from food assistance programs…When every Californian has access to the food they need, our communities and economies thrive,” said Betzabel Estudillo, director of engagement at Nourish California.


The governor also remained committed to expanding Medi-Cal to all undocumented immigrants, despite the budget gap increase.

“The work we’re doing to expand health care regardless of your immigration status is in stark contrast to the rhetoric of today, yesterday, tomorrow, as it relates to what’s going on in this country,” Newsom said. “It’s a point of pride and privilege.”

That means that beginning Jan. 1 everyone regardless of immigration status will have access to health care coverage if they qualify for Medi-Cal. The program expansion is expected to provide full coverage for approximately 700,000 undocumented residents ages 26 to 49 and lead to the largest drop in the rate of uninsured Californians in a decade. The state already allows some undocumented residents to join Medi-Cal, the state’s implementation of Medicaid.

In 2015, California began allowing undocumented children to join Medi-Cal. Four years later, eligibility broadened to those younger than 26. And last year, the state started covering people aged 50 and over.

Click here to read the full article in the Sacramento Bee

What Does the Expiration of Title 42 Mean?

It is officially Friday in the east coast United States, marking the end of Title 42… but, what does it mean? Who does it affect?

“Title 42 is an emergency measure put in place when COVID-19 was declared a national emergency,” said Orange County Congressman Leo Correa. 

But, Title 42, which was started by the Trump Administration and continued under President Biden, has some feeling nervous.

“The challenge we have at the border is that we have many people, thousands – hundreds of thousands – that have been waiting to come into the US,” Correa added. 

“It’s going to have an impact in the immediate because of the pent-up demand,” said LMU Political Science Professor Fernando Guerra.

RELATED: 10,000 migrants stopped in one day ahead of Title 42 expiration

He said after Title 42, Title 8 will play a role and UCLA Chicano Studies Professor Raul Hinojosa says that will, “… allow immigrants to come to the border and say ’I have a well-founded fear of persecution in my homeland. I want to be able to go see a judge to begin the process of applying for political asylum.”

Guerra says it does impact people in LA but not to the same degree as those on the other side of the border or currently at border towns.

He added that for those in LA seeking asylum, it doesn’t change anyone’s daily routines, but, now it gives them a path to legalize their status.

Meanwhile, back at the border if an asylum seeker can’t prove fear of prosecution, then UCLA Law Professor Ahilan Arulanantham says, “… you get what they call an expedited removal order which is a deportation order and now that is on your record. If you try to come in the country again and cross over you can be criminally prosecuted for illegal reentry after deportation.”

To deal with whatever backlog may be created by people seeking asylum, the LA Times is reporting that the Biden administration is cutting the time that migrants have to get lawyers with the idea of speeding up the process.

Click here to read the full article in FoxNews

Cracks, Hacks, Attacks: California’s Vulnerable Water System Faces Many Threats

On a February morning in 2021, a water treatment plant operator in Oldsmar, Fla., noticed something unusual: An unidentified user had remotely accessed the plant’s computer system and was moving the mouse around the screen.

The operator watched as the intruder clicked into various software programs before landing on a function that controls the amount of sodium hydroxide, or lye, in the plant’s water system. The hacker then increased the amount of lye — a potentially dangerous substance used to control acidity — from 100 parts per million to 11,100 parts per million.

The plant operator reversed the change almost immediately, and officials said there was never any threat to public safety. But the incident has highlighted the threats facing major drinking water systems across the country.

“Water systems, like other public utility systems, are part of the nation’s critical infrastructure and can be vulnerable targets when someone desires to adversely affect public safety,” Sheriff Bob Gualtieri of Pinellas County, Fla., said at the time.

In California, where epic Sierra Nevada snowpack and “the big melt” have substantially increased the stakes for reservoir managers, officials say they’re taking steps to protect the state’s water systems from hackers, terrorist attacks and natural disasters, such as the flooding that temporarily severed the Los Angeles Aqueduct — the city’s water lifeline that connects to the Owens Valley.

But experts say the challenges are numerous. Many of the systems in California and nationwide are still operating with outdated software, poor passwords, aging infrastructure and other weaknesses that could leave them at risk.

“We’ve seen a steady rise in both the prevalence and the impact of cyberintrusions, as well as an extraordinary increase in ransomware attacks, which have become more destructive and more expensive,” said Joe Oregon, chief of cybersecurity for Region 9 of the federal Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA.

Andrew Reddie, an assistant professor of practice in cybersecurity at UC Berkeley’s School of Information, said much of the problem is “driven by the fact that the infrastructure is really, really old, and ultimately predates the era that we find ourselves in now, where we actually bake cybersecurity into these … systems by design.”

“You can point to any number of critical infrastructure, including things like dams and water treatment plants, that are not terribly well-protected in terms of passwords,” he said.

A lot of older infrastructure is not “air gapped” from the internet, he said, referring to a separation between operational technology and internet technology. That could enable a bad actor to do things such as change chemical levels or open sluices to manipulate flows in water channels or dams.

Compounding the problem is a lack of central regulation or uniform protocols. Multiple agencies — including the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the American Water Works Assn. and the Department of Homeland Security and CISA — provide some degree of risk management oversight, or offer frameworks and recommendations. But many of the day-to-day decisions are left up to individual operators.

“A lot of the responsibility does certainly fall on the stakeholders’ shoulders to manage their own information systems effectively to prevent any type of cyber compromise or cyber incidents,” said Oregon, of CISA.

The agency estimates that about 63% of the nation’s 91,000 dams are privately owned. Federal, state and local governments and utilities own 35%, and the remaining 2% have “undetermined ownership.”

Despite the risks, experts said it’s important for water systems to be networked in order to expedite maintenance and monitoring. In California, reservoirs are often intentionally spread far apart to maximize rainwater capture and other benefits, so sending physical crews to respond to every potential problem would be time-consuming and expensive, said Ethan Schmertzler, chief executive of Dispel, a cyberdefense firm.

“It all depends upon how water systems are connected, and most water systems in the United States are not — it’s not one national water system,” he said. “The good news is each community is divided into their own command and control systems. The downside is, they’re all divided into their own command and control systems.”

Though most standards are not mandatory, cybersecurity recommendations — and spending — have vastly improved in recent years, he said. Recent legislation through the National Defense Authorization Act will soon compel utilities to report cybersecurity threats to CISA, which will help the federal agency better spot trends, share information and render a response.

John Rizzardo, security coordinator with the State Water Project at the California Department of Water Resources, said the agency operates with an ethos of “layers upon layers of security,” for both physical and cyber threats. Because the agency is also an energy provider in the state, “we probably employ more security features than a lot of just the water industry,” he said.

That doesn’t mean it is immune, however. CISA pointed to the Oroville dam crisis of 2017 as an example of the nation’s need for “comprehensive oversight and guidance over dam resilience.” During that incident, hillside erosion on the dam’s emergency spillway threatened a major flood event and prompted the evacuation of about 200,000 people, though disaster was ultimately averted.

Rizzardo said the agency has since shored up the spillway and made significant security upgrades, and is working to implement the same standards across all State Water Project facilities. The Department of Homeland Security runs national security drills for the dam sector every two years, he said, which the agency also participates in.

But even with the best protocols in place, “there’s still going to be a risk of a cyber or physical attack,” Rizzardo said. “It could happen — we’re doing our best to prevent it — but if it does happen, we do practice our emergency action plans regularly so that we’re prepared if there is some kind of attack that we can try to mitigate, to reduce the consequences.”

Indeed, the Oldsmar incident was not a one-off. A few months later, a ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline — a vital U.S. oil conduit between the Gulf of Mexico and the East Coast — spurred fuel shortages, flight cancellations and a state of emergency declaration from President Biden.

Earlier this year, Biden unveiled a national strategy for cybersecurity that calls for a “more intentional, more coordinated and more well-resourced approach to cyberdefense.”

Similar attacks have threatened other water systems, including an Iranian attack on a New York dam in 2016, in which hackers tried but failed to take control of a sluice gate.

In January 2021, an unnamed water treatment plant in the San Francisco Bay Area also suffered a cyberattack, NBC News first reported. Hackers accessed the plant’s system through a remote access TeamViewer account and deleted programs used to treat drinking water. The programs were reinstalled the next day and no failures were reported. (The Northern California Regional Intelligence Center, which compiled a report on the incident, said it could not provide more details as an investigation is ongoing.)

One of the largest water providers in the country is the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, a massive regional wholesaler that supplies 26 agencies serving 19 million people, including the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

General manager Adel Hagekhalil said in an email that America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 served as a “catalyst for utilities to evaluate their resilience to risk and create emergency plans for responding to all hazards.”

“We are constantly taking steps to ensure the security of our water supplies against physical and cybersecurity threats,” Hagekhalil said. He noted that community water systems serving more than 3,300 people are required to actively update their risk and resilience assessment and emergency response plans every five years.

Additionally, the MWD employs cybersecurity experts and constantly monitors network and computer activity to “detect unusual events quickly so they can be addressed,” he said. Computer and network access is tightly controlled, and employees are also required to take annual cybersecurity training. The agency also conducts periodic emergency management exercises at different facilities to simulate responses to physical threats such as earthquakes, floods, fires and terrorist attacks, which include first responders and law enforcement agencies, he said.

But the U.S. is home to more than 55,000 public water systems and 16,000 wastewater systems, said Jennifer Lyn Walker, director of infrastructure cyberdefense at the Water Information Sharing and Analysis Center. One of her primary concerns was that there is often a “lack of awareness” about the potential for cyberthreats and other such vulnerabilities.

“Physical threats are so much more top of mind, or more easily identified or more easily understood than the cyberthreat,” she said. “The concern is a lack of preparedness.”

However, most large systems in California “are doing what needs to be done” when it comes to cybersecurity, she said. Small and medium-size systems, which often have fewer resources than major providers, may need assistance, however, and could benefit from the guidance of larger operators.

“A smaller system that just barely services 5,000 people — that’s still 5,000 people’s lives that could be at risk if something should happen, and that’s from physical or cyber [threats],” she said.

Reddie, of Berkeley, said more auditing would provide a better understanding of which systems are networked, as well as which systems follow best practices. He also recommended educating workforces about proper cyberhygiene.

Even with such steps in place, however, vulnerabilities remain. Ongoing investigations into the Oldsmar incident indicate that it may not have been the work of an outside hacker at all, but might have been caused by an internal employee. Should that prove to be the case, it would highlight that insider threats can also be cause for concern, Reddie said.

Click here to read the full article in LA Times

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

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

California Democrats at Odds Over How to Close Growing Budget Deficit

California’s tax revenues continue to fall short of expectations, its deficit continues to grow and with the June 15 deadline for enacting a new budget, there’s a three-way split among the Capitol’s top Democrats.

In January, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared that the state had a $22.5 billion deficit, just months after bragging about a nearly $100 billion surplus. However, revenues – particularly personal income taxes – have grown even softer since then. When Newsom unveils a revised 2023-24 budget later this month, he’s expected to declare a wider income/outgo gap.

The problem is exacerbated by two factors: the spending expectations that were raised by last year’s phantom surplus and the lack of revenue clarity because the deadline for filing income tax returns, originally April 18, was extended by six months due to winter storms.

The current budget, passed when surplus projections were soaring, contains dozens of appropriations to create new projects or services, or to expand existing ones, particularly in social welfare and health care fields. The cornucopia of cash pleased advocates for those services, but they were disappointed in January when Newsom proposed to claw back many allocations to close the newly discovered deficit.

Since then, budget stakeholders have been pressing the Legislature not only to resist Newsom’s cuts but increase spending even more. Some of the heaviest pressure is coming from hospitals and mass transit systems, both of which say they face financial collapse if they don’t get billions of dollars from the state.

Last week, state Senate leaders issued their budget plan, entitled “Protect Our Progress,” that, they said, would close the state’s deficit while maintaining last year’s new spending – principally by borrowing money from the state’s stash of uncommitted cash and raising corporate income taxes by more than $7 billion.

“We are, in effect, getting our biggest corporations closer to pay their fair share,” said Sen. Nancy Skinner, an East Bay Democrat who chairs the Senate budget committee.

Spending advocates immediately issued statements of praise for the Senate’s budget framework.

“Senate Democrats’ plan acknowledges that California’s projected budget shortfall will never be solved by putting more burden on those who are struggling, but by asking California corporations to chip in more of their vast wealth – created by working people – to create a stronger economy and deliver on our state’s shared commitment to equity,” Tia Orr of the Service Employees International Union said in one of many supportive statements.

However, business groups denounced the proposed corporate tax increase. “Now is not the time to test California’s ability to withstand the impact of an economic downturn or a recession by placing our economic success at risk,” said Jennifer Barrera, president of the California Chamber of Commerce.

More importantly, Newsom immediately rejected the tax increase. “Governor Newsom cannot support the new tax increases and massive ongoing spending proposed by the Senate today,” spokesperson Anthony York said in a statement. “It would be irresponsible to jeopardize the progress we’ve all made together over the last decade to protect the most vulnerable while putting our state on sound fiscal footing.”

Significantly, the Senate’s plan didn’t have an endorsement from Assembly leaders. In January, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, a Democrat from Lakewood, said he would prefer to tap the state’s “rainy day” reserves if the deficit widened.

“That’s what it’s there for,” Rendon told POLITICO.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters