Can Superagencies crack California’s housing logjam?

An acute shortage of housing, particularly for low-income families that must devote much of their paltry incomes to rent, is clearly one of California’s most pressing and vexing issues.

The Legislature passes laws and appropriates billions of dollars and state officials rag on local governments to become more accommodating to development, but very little, if any, progress is made on closing the gap between supply and demand.

Everyone involved seems to be looking for the silver bullet solution, but no one has come up with it yet.

Several years ago, the San Francisco Bay Area’s civic and political leadership devised a new approach – a regional agency empowered to raise revenues that would jump-start much needed construction while protecting existing housing stocks and helping poor tenants remain in their homes as rents increased.

The Bay Area Housing Finance Authority, created by legislation, came into being just before the COVID-19 pandemic struck and it impeded the agency’s startup plans. A $10 billion regional bond issue for housing was being planned, but due to the economic turmoil of the pandemic, including widespread unemployment, its sponsors delayed action indefinitely.

The agency is just getting going again, using some seed money advanced by the state, and is resurrecting the $10 billion bond proposal in the nine Bay Area counties, possibly for the 2024 ballot. That would be enough, officials say, to produce and/or preserve 45,000 affordable housing units, assuming that it would leverage another $15 billion from other sources. But such a bond would require a two-thirds region-wide vote, which is by no means certain.

Simply put, the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority is still a work in progress. No one knows whether it will, or even could, make a significant dent in the region’s housing shortage.

Nevertheless, Los Angeles County leaders want to emulate the Bay Area experiment. They persuaded the Legislature, in the final hours of its session last month, to create the awkwardly named Los Angeles County Affordable Housing Solutions Agency with very similar powers, and also some limitations that could hamstring its effectiveness.

The agency will have a 21-member board composed of local officials, including all five county supervisors, and their appointees.

Essentially, the new agency could raise money with voter-approved parcel taxes on property, a tax on business gross receipts or a tax on property transfer documents and could also issue bonds. The revenues would mostly be given to the county’s cities to be spent on housing, although the agency could undertake some projects of its own.

However, it could play no role in zoning issues, could not acquire property by eminent domain (seizure) and is forbidden to build housing for the homeless. To gain legislative approval, Senate Bill 679 also was drafted with a requirement that any housing built or financed by the agency be considered public works subject to the state’s prevailing wage law, with larger projects required, in essence, to use only unionized labor.

While the Bay Area’s housing agency covers nine counties, the new one in Los Angeles is limited to just that county, which raises a question: Why is it needed, since the county government already has authority to do what the new entity would do?

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters

Anonymous Letter to Assembly Lawmakers Alleges Abuse, Harassment of Sergeants-at-Arms by Chief

Letter says violations have been reported to Assembly leaders but nothing was done

The California Globe is in receipt of a letter stating it is from an Assembly Sergeant-at-Arms, recently sent to all members of the California State Assembly, as well as Assembly staffers, revealing alleged abuse and horrible work conditions in the legislature by the Assembly Chief Sergeant-at-Arms.

The complaint alleges that Assembly Chief Sergeant-at-Arms Alisa Buckley and Deputy Chief Sergeant Randy Arruda are abusive to the point of pushing Sergeants to retire early, leave for another job, or suffer demotion and schedule changes with little or no notice. 

The writer says the policy violations were reported to the Workers Conduct Unit (WCU) and Assembly Human Resources, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Chair of Rules Committee Ken Cooley, and Chief Administrative Officer Debra Gravert, but nothing changed.

“At the State Capitol, those who create the laws that the governed are required to follow, do not follow such practices themselves,” the letter writer says.

In December 2019, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announced Alisa Buckley, a member of the Sacramento Police Department for 22 years, as the Assembly’s new Acting Chief Sergeant-at-Arms. The election for the new Chief Sergeant was held the first week of session in January 2020, and she was approved for the job.

With the complaint now being public, it appears the Assembly Speaker needs to initiate a thorough investigation into the allegations, which includes interviewing all staff Sergeants-at-Arms.

The California Capitol has been plagued with hostile working conditions in recent years. In 2018 the Joint Committee on Rules Subcommittee on Sexual Harassment Prevention and Response announced policy changes in response to widespread accusations of sexual harassment/assault and gross sexual misconduct by elected legislators and senior staff, I reported. Yet female employees still report harassment, as the Los Angeles Times recently reported.

The Globe contacted Assembly Speaker Rendon’s press secretary Saturday for a statement but we have not heard back. We will update the article when we do.

Here is the letter:

August 26, 2022

All Assemblymembers

1315 10th St.

Sacramento, CA 95834

RE: Assembly Sergeant-at-Arms Hostile Work Environment

Dear Assemblymembers,

Over the course of the last year, the Assembly’s Sergeant-at-Arms Department has become a hostile and demoralizing place of employment.  In 2021, the department had around 50 total employees.  Since then, the department has diminished to less than half that number due to the leadership of Chief Sergeant Alisa Buckley and Deputy Chief Sergeant Randy Arruda.  Diminishing staff is due to those who have chosen to retire early, leave for another job opportunity, or were demoted.   Those who left includes five of the eight in management.  Several Assembly policies have been violated and were reported to the Workers Conduct Unit (WCU) and Assembly Human Resources. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Chair of Rules Committee Ken Cooley, and Chief Administrative Officer Debra Gravert had been informed of such matters and made the decision to protect the institution instead of protecting staff vital to the functioning of the Capitol.

Assembly policy states that training in Workplace Violence Prevention, Ethics, and Sexual Harassment be conducted each legislative term and that staff compliance is mandatory.  The Ethics training course describes retaliation and purposeful misconduct by superiors.  This has been occurring in the Sergeant’s Department for two years.

-Demoting the employees

-Encouraging staff to ostracize individual employees without cause or evidence

-Giving poor reviews or nit-picking

-Sudden changes in work schedules and/or work locations

-Poor references without cause or evidence

-Poor performance feedback without cause or evidence

Assembly staff communicated such occurrences to individual members in the hopes that help would come. Staff has been repeatedly reminded that they are at-will employees and could be let go at any time for any reason.  The constant reminding has considered is a warning to any employees that discuss department matters to members will experience consequences.  This is a violation of the ethic protocols in the Capitol.  What is occurring in the department has reached the level of being discussed in a Democratic Caucus meeting.  

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Tidal Marsh or ‘Fake Habitat’? California Environmental Project Draws Criticism

Southwest of Sacramento, the branching arms of waterways reach into a patchwork of farm fields and pastures. Canals and wetlands fringed with reeds meet a sunbaked expanse of dry meadows.

These lands on the northwestern edge of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Deltahave now been targeted for restoration following the widespread destruction of estuary marsh habitats that began over a century ago. 

But one habitat restoration project funded by a large agricultural water district is drawing criticism from environmental advocates. They say that while the project is based on claims of ecologically important marsh habitat, a large portion of the land is a high-and-dry former cattle pasture that does little to benefit endangered fish.

The dispute over the roughly 2,100-acre property centers on questions about which lands should be counted as tidal marsh habitat in the delta, one of California’s primary water sources. State and federal agencies that operate the two major water projects pumping from the delta have been supporting a series of habitat restoration projects as they work toward a requirement to restore at least 8,000 acres of tidal marshes to mitigate the ecological harm caused by water diversions.

A large portion of that requirement could be satisfied by the property southwest of Sacramento — called the Lower Yolo Ranch Tidal Habitat Restoration Project — if federal wildlife officials agree with claims by state and federal water agencies that much of the property should receive credit as tidal marsh that benefits endangered delta smelt.https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/2MFYt

The Westlands Water District bought the property in 2007 and has done restoration work at the site by grading the land, removing concrete infrastructure and digging new tidal channels and swales. Thomas Birmingham, general manager of Westlands, has said the district bought the property because it was “an ideal location for restoration of tidal marsh habitat.”

The state Department of Water Resources has claimed that more than 1,700 acres, or about 80% of the property, benefits delta smelt. If the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirms this and grants full credit for the acreage as tidal marsh habitat, Westlands is set to receive nearly $41 million from the state.

But environmental advocates argue that only about one-fourth of the property should receive credit as tidal marsh habitat, while the rest of the land is too high above sea level to get wet during high tides. They have pointed to documents indicating that much of the property lies 6.5 feet or more above sea level.

“They’re paying Westlands for fake habitat,” said Patricia Schifferle, director of Pacific Advocates, an environmental consulting firm. “Much of the area is upland habitat and will not support fish. … They’re selling cow pasture as if it was tidal habitat.”

The property is in the southern portion of the Yolo Bypass, a floodplain on the north side of the delta.

The delta smelt, a finger-length fish, has been spiraling toward extinction despite decades of rescue efforts.

Schifferle pointed out that the Department of Water Resources’ request to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to certify credit for 1,713 acres of tidal marsh habitat, includes lands as much as 7.7 feet above sea level. Schifferle said that is too high to benefit fish.

“Delta smelt better grow legs, because there’s no way that’s tidal habitat for delta smelt,” Schifferle said. At $23,815 per acre, she said, “that’s a lot of money for cow pasture.”

A coalition of environmental groups raised concerns about the deal in a letter to state agencies in July. The groups, which included the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, said documents show “that there generally is no tidal influence on lands at elevations above 6.5 feet above sea level in this part of the delta, and therefore these lands are not ‘tidal’ marsh, ‘tidal wetland,’ or ‘intertidal’ habitat” and should not be credited toward meeting environmental mitigation requirements for the State Water Project.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

LAUSD Student Test Scores Show Sharp Drops in English, Math Proficiency

Pointing to the COVID-19 pandemic as the driving factor, the Los Angeles Unified School District released test scores Friday showing sharp drop-offs in proficiency among students in nearly all grade levels in English and math.

According to the preliminary Smarter Balanced Assessments, the percent of LAUSD students meeting or exceeding state standards in English dropped by about two percentage points compared to the pre-pandemic 2018-19 year — falling from 43.9% to 41.7%. In math, the drop was steeper, falling by five percentage points from 33.5% to 28.5%.

“As anticipated, the preliminary state assessment results illustrate that there is no substitute for in-person instruction,” Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho said in a statement. “Los Angeles Unified is proactively addressing the decline in achievement performance, particularly in English language arts and mathematics, at all grade levels.

“We are working collaboratively to accelerate and realize the learning potential of every student, bolstering important support systems including instructional, mental health and community supports to meet the needs of our students and realize our goals outlined in our 2022-2026 Strategic Plan.”

According to the figures, the percent of students meeting or exceeding the English standard fell in all grade levels except eighth grade, which saw slight increase. The biggest drop was in the 11th grade, which fell by 7 percentage points. Third-graders fell off by 4.5 percentage points and fourth- grades fell by about four points.

In math, every grade level saw a decrease, led by the 11th grade with a 9.7 point drop-off from 28.6% to 18.9%.

Eighth- and sixth-graders saw a nearly six-point drop.

“Los Angeles Unified has acted with urgency to ensure our students have the necessary supports to recover from the pandemic this year, and these results further underscore the need,” LAUSD Board of Education President Kelly Gonez said in a statement. “We have invested in strategies — from ensuring there’s a teacher in every classroom to summer school, tutoring and mental health supports — that will help us accelerate learning for all students, particularly our highest needs students who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.”

District officials said a variety of steps are included in the Strategic Plan to address learning loss from the pandemic, including the hiring of more teachers, providing additional training opportunities for teachers at the highest-need schools and using the test scores to guide “instructional planning and personalized learning so all students reach proficiency.”

Click here to read the full article at Fox11

Californians can’t catch a break as gas prices spike again

The ongoing heat wave is raising the risk of blackouts on top of perennial drought and fires. And now, after enduring record pump prices in June that were much higher than the national average, Californians face surging gasoline costs again at the end of the summer travel season when they typically fall.

Pump prices jumped 10 cents a gallon in a week in Los Angeles County and the Inland Empire and 13 cents in Orange County, according to auto club AAA. Record wholesale premiums signal they could rise even further. At the state level, retail prices average $5.34 a gallon on Friday, 4 cents more than the previous day.

The confluence of bad news highlights how vulnerable California’s energy systems are to supply disruptions. The state is an energy island, cut off from crude and fuel hubs in the Gulf Coast and Midwest by the Rocky Mountains. Regulators require a boutique grade of cleaner-burning fuel that few refineries are geared to produce outside of the state. As a result, fuel shortages take time to resolve and price spikes are far more common than elsewhere in the country.

Gasoline stockpiles on the US West Coast have fallen by 11% since the beginning of August amid a lack of imports to their lowest level in about seven years, data from the Energy Information Administration show. The California grade of gasoline known as Carbob also saw inventories drop to 8% below the five-year average for this time of year, according to the California Energy Commission.

Refiners in the state are running harder, but hot weather and a stressed power grid may be causing some problems. Excess heat challenges the water cooling system in refineries, and one way to handle it is to cut operation rates, said John Auers, managing director at RBN Energy.

“Heat, along with the way the power grid is being managed, can be contributing to the refinery issues,” Auers said in a phone interview. A string of incidents recently surfaced in Southern California and may have spooked traders in the spot market, which sets the basis for retail prices.

Click here to read the full article at the OC Register

New Court Order Means Noncitizen Parents Can Vote in Nov. 8 Election for San Francisco School Board

Noncitizen parents will be allowed to vote in the Nov. 8 election for school board in San Francisco after a state appeals court rejected opponents’ request to decide a case about the legality of the city’s voting ordinance before then.

Conservative activists behind a lawsuit challenging the ordinance had asked the court to expedite its review of the case and, in the meantime, grant an immediate injunction to block the city from providing ballots to noncitizens. But the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco rejected both requests in an order Thursday.

The three-member appeals panel noted, in its brief order, that opponents of the ordinance allowed “four elections to take place with noncitizen voting before filing the instant lawsuit.”

But the fate of San Francisco’s ordinance still hangs by a thread. The ordinance allows noncitizens — including undocumented immigrants and legal residents — to vote for school board candidates if they are a parent or guardian of a school-age child and are not in prison or on parole for a felony conviction.

In August, a Superior Court judge struck down the ordinance and said only U.S. citizens are permitted to vote. Conservative groups have cited a provision in the California Constitution that declares, “A United States citizen 18 years of age and resident in this State may vote.”

San Francisco challenged that ruling to the First District Court of Appeal, which restored noncitizen voting, at least for now. The appeals court granted the city’s request for a stay to set aside the judge’s ruling and leave the ordinance in effect while the case is on appeal. The justices said opponents of the law had not shown they would suffer “irreparable damage in their business or profession” if the law remained in effect during the appeal.

City voters approved the ordinance, the first of its kind in the state, with Proposition N in 2016. The law took effect in 2018, and was extended indefinitely by the Board of Supervisors in 2021.

The lead plaintiff in the case, James V. Lacy, said in a statement Friday that the Court of Appeal’s decision to not expedite its review of the case would likely result in noncitizens casting ballots that “will unconstitutionally dilute the voting power of all citizen voters, including those of ethnic minority groups.”

Noncitizen voter turnout has been low in past elections, possibly due to fears about sharing their identities with the government. Election officials said noncitizen voters accounted for 238 of the 180,000 ballots cast in the February election that recalled three school board members from office.

Attorneys for San Francisco contend the provision in the California Constitution stating that citizens “may vote” does not prevent a local government from allowing noncitizens to vote.

Click here to read the full article at the SF Chronicle

Rep. Katie Porter’s Sweet UC Irvine Housing Deal Raises Eyebrows

Houses in Orange County go for $1 million, but Porter snagged one for half that with the help of some college friends

Although Orange County Congresswoman Katie Porter represents an area where houses typically sell for $1 million, Porter’s four-bedroom, three-bath in a sweet subdivision of the University of California Irvine campus is a steal at $523,000, the Associated Press reports.

The Democrat and law professor didn’t just luck into a good deal on a house. She purchased it in 2011 at below-market price through an arrangement in which the university helps out academics who couldn’t otherwise “afford to live in the affluent area.” There is only one eligibility requirement—that Porter continue to work for UC Irvine and meet with students.

But some are raising their eyes since this high-class subsidized housing continues even though she’s spent years away from the classroom. Porter taught for eight years, and then left for Congress after she was elected in 2018. That’s when she first took unpaid leave from her teaching job—which paid $258,000 a year—to serve in the House of Representatives.

Emails obtained by AP show Porter had at least one person working on her behalf, a law school administrator who had donated to her political campaign and “helped secure extensions of her tenure while she remained in Congress.”

Administrators agreed to two separate one-year periods of leave that enabled Porter to keep her house, AP’s documents show. School officials, however, started questioning the arrangement as her 2020 reelection.

“Is there any fixed limit on the number of years of leave without pay… One of our administrators mentioned that they seemed to recall a two-year limit,” law school Vice Dean Chris Whytock, who donated $500 to Porter’s 2018 campaign, wrote in a April 2020 email, adding, “Some government service may, of course, last for a number of years.”

Whytock wrote a memo outlining the case for extending Porter’s leave, according to AP, while suggesting that there are no limits on how long such an arrangement could continue. The plan required the approval of the school’s vice provost, which was granted in 2020, according the the emails.

Whytock did not return AP’s request for comment.

Porter did not address whether or not her housing arrangement was kosher in an interview with AP, but she said she “followed the applicable [University of California] policies, as well as all applicable state and federal law.”

“I am always happy to be transparent with voters,” Porter said. “I take a lot of pride in my record on transparency and good governance and have been asked about this before by voters and have always been happy to give them full and complete information.”

Porter’s housing situation does not violate U.S. House ethics rules. Porter will seek a third term in November.

Click here to read the full article in Los Angeles Magazine

Karen Bass Got a USC Degree for Free. It’s Now Pulling Her Into a Federal Corruption Case 

During the last decade, two influential Los Angeles politicians were awarded full-tuition scholarships valued at nearly $100,000 each from USC’s social work program. 

One of those scholarships led to the indictment of former L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the former dean of USC’s social work program, Marilyn Flynn, on bribery and fraud charges.

The other scholarship recipient, Rep. Karen Bass, is the leading contender to be L.A.’s next mayor.

Federal prosecutors have made no indication that Bass is under a criminal investigation.

But prosecutors have now declared that Bass’ scholarship and her dealings with USC are “critical” to their bribery case and to their broader portrayal of corruption in the university’s social work program.

When jurors ultimately decide whether to convict Ridley-Thomas and Flynn, prosecutors have indicated they want Bass’ relationship with USC, the largest private employer in her congressional district, to inform their verdict.

By awarding free tuition to Bass in 2011, Flynn hoped to obtain the congresswoman’s assistance in passing coveted legislation, prosecutors wrote in a July court filing. Bass later sponsored a bill in Congress that would have expanded USC’s and other private universities’ access to federal funding for social work — “just as defendant Flynn wanted,” the filing states.

Flynn is charged for what prosecutors allege was a quid pro quo with Ridley-Thomas involving a scholarship awarded to his son in exchange for lucrative county contracts. To bolster their case, prosecutors have pointed to an email from Flynn in which she noted doing “the same” sort of scholarship-for-funding with Bass.

Bass’ name is redacted in much of the court filings, which prosecutors said accorded with Department of Justice policy.The Times confirmed her identity through case records, people familiar with the matter and some copies of emails that were briefly filed in court this summer and later redacted.

Federal prosecutors declined this week to elaborate on their statements about the scholarship. “At present and based on the evidence obtained to date, Rep. Bass is not a target or a subject of our office’s investigation,” said Thom Mrozek, director of media relations for the U.S. attorney’s office in L.A.

But with Flynn and Ridley-Thomas on trial in November, the circumstances of Bass’ free master’s degree could become an increasingly contested part of the case. In June, Flynn’s lawyers subpoenaed USC for correspondence pertaining to Bass’ scholarship and any honors or benefits given to the congresswoman, according to a copy of the subpoena filed last month. 

A court battle over the involvement of Bass’ scholarship could in turn offer grist for political attacks as she heads into the final weeks of her mayoral campaign against developer Rick Caruso.

Through a spokesperson, Bass denied ever speaking with Flynn about federal funding for social work programs at private universities while the pair discussed her attendance at USC. Asked whether it was apparent that Flynn had a legislative agenda in offering the scholarship, Bass said, “No.”

“Everybody knows that the welfare of children and families has been a passion and policy focus of mine for decades,” Bass said. “The only reason I studied nights and weekends for a master’s degree was to become a better advocate for children and families — period.”

‘Clearly’ a gift

The Times revealed the Bass scholarship last year, noting that full-tuition awards like the one she received were not publicized, had no formal application process and were more generous than grants typically given to other students.

In an interview last fall for that article, Bass said that she didn’t apply for the social work program; Flynn apparently made the decision to admit her after learning of her interest in getting a graduate degree.

Before accepting the scholarship, Bass said, she wrote to the House Committee on Ethics in 2011, requesting an exemption on the rule prohibiting gifts to members of Congress. She told ethics officials the graduate degree would deepen her knowledge of child welfare policy and help her better represent constituents, according to congressional records.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

CA Teachers Union Did Oppo Research on Parents Who Wanted Schools to Reopen During COVID

‘To have the teachers’ union dedicate personnel to politically target moms and dads protecting their children is startling and disgusting’

Reopen California Schools just exposed via emails received through California Public Records Act requests that the California Teachers Association labor union conducted opposition research on parent groups pushing for school reopening during the government ordered COVID school shutdowns in California.

Opposition research (“oppo” research) is the practice of collecting information on a political opponent or other adversary that can be used to discredit or weaken them.

“Then after a principal was accidentally CC’d, the ‘damage control’ was asking him to illegally delete the email,” Reopen California Schools reported. “The email was initiated by CTA researcher Ann Swinburn, to an activist parent arm of the local union. In the email Ann says, she is ‘currently doing some research into the various ‘reopen’ groups around the state.’”

Reopen California Schools continues:

“In Dec 2020, the local SDUHSD union, with help from CTA, sued the district to stay closed. Parents then successfully sued to open schools in March 2021. The CTA researcher was wanting to dig up intel on the parents funding the reopen lawsuits. (Hint: It was just parents.)”

“Later in the email, one person accidentally cc’d the wrong Adam, who was a principal in the district. Knowing the information was not only embarrassing, but could be subject to a Public Records Request, they asked the principal to illegally delete the email (he didn’t).”

Reopen California reports that CTA activist Ann Swinburn then made her account private. “And now her account is deleted. Guess making it private wasn’t good enough. Truly was not expecting this (nor paid attention to her Twitter before), but now, I really want to know what were in some of those tweets.”

“The CTA researcher’s tweets are protected now, but older ones are available via an internet archive. Like these from Apr 1 & Oct 15 2021. She seems convinced it was right-wing dark money instead a parents just wanting their kids in school & w/ normalcy.”

he Globe spoke Wednesday with a parent group mom who has been active pressing for school re-openings and getting back to what used to be normal in schools. She said every school district “has a few loudmouth smart moms” who start shill group Facebook pages with innocuous sounding names like “Parents Supporting teachers,” and pump out teachers unions talking points. She said they are usually recruited by the teachers unions.

“Several archived tweets shared by Reopen California Schools, show that Swinburn appeared to be convinced that parent groups fighting to reopen schools were covertly being backed by big money interests,” Fox News reported.

“Lance Christensen, who is a candidate for California superintendent of public instruction, called the email revelations ‘startling and disgusting.’”

“Conducting opposition research is a common practice in political campaigns. But to have the teachers’ union dedicate personnel to politically target moms and dads protecting their own children and expressing their first amendment rights is both startling and disgusting,” Christensen said in a statement to Fox News.

He added: “Entrenched special interests have used their war chests over the last two and a half years to intimidate and threaten anyone who dares to challenge their ineffective reign over public education. This must end.”

These parents exemplify the desperation for normalcy:

“We just wanted schools open, now we just want our kids to be able to read and do math at grade level, and this is what CTA spends $$ on,” the mom says.

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Sacramento Drug-Addicted Transients Taking Over Neighborhoods While City Fiddles

Kate Tibbitts’ horrific murder remains on locals’ psyches, but seems to be a far-away, inconvenient memory for local politicians

The City of Sacramento has a big problem, and it isn’t the “existential threat of climate change.”

Narcotics, burglary, aggravated assault, battery, vandalism, and weapon-related crimes are now commonplace in residential neighborhoods where new moms push strollers on daily walks, kids bicycle to baseball practice, runners prepare for the next marathon, elderly groups do tai chi together, neighbors walk their dogs, and families picnic.

“Open drug use has worsened in the Broadway area of Land Park recently, according to neighbors who say they are upset about a lack of action to combat lawlessness,” KCRA 3 reported this weekend. Only this isn’t a recent problem – it’s been building exponentially, and since Mayor Darrell Steinberg was elected in 2016.

Is this a case of bad timing for Steinberg or a case of bad policy and politics?

As the Globe reported last week, “The latest Starbucks casualty is in Sacramento, along the Broadway corridor, wrought with blocks of homeless transients, escalating crime, and legitimate safety concerns for the residents and business owners who live and work there.”

The Sacramento Land Park neighborhood is also where long time resident Kate Tibbitts was brutally murdered in her home by a parolee. Last fall “homeless” transient Troy Davis, out on the streets despite his recent parole violation, raped and murdered downtown Sacramento resident Kate Tibbitts, in the Land Park neighborhood, killing her dogs and setting her house on fire,” the Globe reported.

Tibbitts horrific murder remains a fresh imprint on locals’s psyche, but seems to be a far-away, inconvenient memory for local politicians.

This past weekend, this transient man was making such a scene tossing trash at the now-closed Starbucks on Broadway, the police were called. He has an ankle bracelet on.

This is video of his mania taken by a local resident: 91C91B8B-21CD-46E4-BDC2-BA2717D39AFCAnd this video.

KCRA received a statement from Councilwoman Katie Valenzuela:

“The police have gotten more resources than they ever had before – $47m additional in just the last two budgets. Despite that increase in funding our crime has gone up, because the issues here are not about enforcement. We will not see a decrease in crime until we start prioritizing the reasons people commit crimes: drug and mental health treatment, affordable housing, economic opportunity.”

Many in the city dispute Valenzuela’s claim of $47M additional funding for SacPD. The budget includes money for pensions, police equipment, and other non-officer spending. SacPd is still seriously understaffed. Sacramento had more police officers on the street in 2008 than we do today in 2022, and the city population has grown significantly since then. Sac Fire’s budget has also increased, but nobody complains about that.

Councilwoman Valenzuela continues to blame police, but now at least admits that drug addiction and mental health is a large part of the crimes by homeless transients. But mouthing the words isn’t enough for the Councilwoman facing a recall election.

In April, the Globe reported “Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, together with Democratic state lawmakers and ‘criminal justice reform’ advocates, held a press conference and demanded $3 billion ‘for immediate and substantial investments in crime prevention and healing services for crime victims.’ Their demand follows the weekend [gang] shooting in Sacramento which left 6 dead and 12 injured.”

Steinberg has demanded a lot of state and federal funding since he took over the Mayor’s office in 2016. It seems to be all he knows how to do – demand and spend, and we don’t really know where the money is spent with so many questionable NGOs and non-profits attached to city government.

Steinberg created the non-profit Steinberg Institute in 2015 while still a State Senator, just prior to leaving the California Senate, to help the mentally-ill: “Since its inception in January 2015, the institute has helped enact sweeping improvements in California mental health policy, including securing $2 billion to provide housing and care for homeless people living with brain illness,” the website says.

Has the Steinberg Institute spent $2 billion helping the mentally-ill, creating housing and funding crime prevention? The odds are no, they have not. We are betting that $2 billion isn’t going to the mentally ill, drug addicted homeless transients living on Sacramento streets.

With Steinberg at the April press event following the downtown gang shooting were gun control and defund-the-police advocates:

Advocates used the opportunity to call for more state funding for crime prevention, cash assistance to victims and survivors of violent crime, and “interventions around gun violence.” However, the advocates for interventions around gun violence offered no specific solutions – just funding. Maybe these groups are where Steinberg’s demand for funding end up.

After another deadly shooting downtown in July, Mayor Steinberg announced the “investments” he was making to make Downtown Sacramento more safe:

  • increased our minimum patrol staffing on Saturdays
  • bike officers now work until 3 a.m. on weekends
  • Officers in the entertainment unit are also working until 3 a.m., focusing on hotspots in downtown and midtown
  • Additional officers have now been directed to patrol parking lots near nightclubs to make sure they aren’t used by people getting in fights or engaging in illegal activity
  • an additional funding allocation from City Council pays for two foot patrol officers every day

This is nice and already should already be standard operating procedure.

Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher suggested a different tact last Spring:

  • End the Early Release of Violent Felons
  • Restore Stiff Penalties for Gun & Gang Crimes
  • Disarm & Penalize Felons with Guns

Those policies would make a difference.

As for the downtown neighbors and the Land Park neighborhood, Land Park Community Association vice president Kristina Rogers told KCRA, “We’ve got people dealing drugs, and shooting up, and having crazy episodes in front of children … I keep hearing about revitalization in this area, and this is what we’re getting instead.”

Click here to read the full article at the California Globe