California Assemblymen Introduce a Legitimate Bill to Solve Homelessness

End ‘Liberal Olympics’: Pray that the State Capitol media gives it the attention it needs, and that all of California deserves

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Two California Assemblymen have introduced a bill to address life beyond homelessness.

Assemblymen Josh Hoover (R-Folsom) and Joe Patterson (R-Rocklin) announced Assembly Bill 2417 “to expand and improve California’s response to our state’s homelessness crisis. This legislation increases funding flexibility for treatment and service oriented programs by repealing the state’s existing one-size-fits-all ‘Housing First’ approach to homelessness.”

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What? This doesn’t sound interesting, controversial or sexy? Yawn.

That’s the problem with today’s Liberal Olympics. Only the craziest, most ridiculous bills seem to get any media attention. The actually necessary, corrective policy-fix bills are ignored by the mainstream media while the stupid, excessive, exaggerated bills make the media’s click-bait cut.

This bill is important… So what does the “Beyond Housing” bill do?

According to the bill’s authors:

It “eliminates the state’s one-size-fits-all approach to homelessness by allowing treatment as a potential option rather than the strict Housing First policy. This would allow state agencies and departments to distribute homeless funds to entities that require mental health and drug treatment for homeless individuals to remain in the program. Ultimately, this will reduce homelessness, crime, squalor, and pressure on local services, when billions in taxpayer money has already been squandered.”

This means that the failed “Housing First” policy this state has spent billions on is… well… a failure – except for the contractors refurbishing and building the “housing” for the homeless.

t is notable that several states with high housing costs have low homelessness – something which rankles “housing first” advocates who continue to insist the hundreds of thousands of drug addicts living on the streets, parks, beaches, rivers and golf courses in California would not be there if they could afford housing, even calling the drug-addicted homeless the “unhoused.”

The Globe has covered the homeless crisis extensively and note that focusing only on housing rather than what’s really at the root of homelessness – drug addiction and mental illness – is merely Democrats controlling the language rather than solving the homeless crisis.

As Assemblymen Hoover and Patterson explain in detail:

Click here to read that the full article in the California Globe

They earn nearly $200,000. Can they afford to have kids in SoCal?

During their daily walk a few years ago, a Burbank couple brainstormed baby names, settling on one option for a boy and another for a girl.

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But the names never got used.

After several conversations and scrutiny of their life goals and monthly budget, Beccy Quinn and Xavier Coelho-Kostolny decided last year to join the growing cohort of Americans who describe themselves as child-free by choice.

Their discussions hinged on two questions: Will we still be able to invest as much time in the relationships we already value? And, if we have a child, can we still live comfortably in the city we love and save enough for travel and retirement?

The answer to both was no.

Coelho-Kostolny, 36, designs 3-D models for video games and Quinn, 35, works as an actor and writer, and although they earned a combined income of nearly $200,000 last year, her salary fluctuates each year. The couple expects to help care for Quinn’s parents down the road and they already feel behind on a retirement goal they’ve read online: Aim to save five times your annual salary by age 40.

“It’s just impossible,” Coehlo-Kostolny said, exasperated. “I’m pretty sure I’m just gonna work until I die.”

Quinn, who manages the couple’s monthly budget, assured him that they’re doing better than he thinks, but agreed that having a child would make it extremely challenging. The cost of day care alone, she said, would eclipse her salary some years.

“I would have had to quit.”

Birth rates have been trending downward in the U.S. for several decades, but they dropped even more precipitously during the pandemic, a time of profound uncertainty when parents juggled jobs, as well as full-time caregiving and teaching roles. After a small rebound, they’re now down again.

More than a quarter million fewer babies were born in the U.S. in 2022 than in 2012, according to the most recent finalized data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A phenomenon across much of the world, the falling birth rate has sweeping implications on the global economy, prompting Taiwan to spend more than $3 billion on child-rearing initiatives and leaders in several countries to create so-called baby bonuses.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Why do candidates who campaign on climate flood mailboxes with fliers?

Mailers generate carbon. They also generate money and votes. Experts talk about that balance, plus ways that campaigns can be greener.

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One California voter tweeted: “‘Help me fight climate change’ says the campaign mailer going straight into the recycle bin.”

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Then there’s the Facebook user who called “snail mail” campaign fliers “mostly a nuisance these days,” and said her main response to them is this question: “Don’t these people care even a bit about the environment?”

If you’re a registered voter, and particularly if you live in a district with a competitive primary race, your mailbox has likely been flooded in recent days with political campaign fliers.

Like all mail, each of these fliers leaves a small carbon footprint. Trees are felled to make their paper and gas-powered vehicles spew carbon to deliver them. That’s why climate groups encourage everyone to turn off paper billing, to opt out of junk mail, and to “think before you print.”

But despite the growing role that digital advertising now plays in modern elections, the decades-old tradition of mailing out campaign fliers shows no signs of slowing down.

That’s true even of candidates who use those mailers to tout their passion for fighting climate change.

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“Campaigns are notorious for being slow adapters,” said Dan Schnur, who teaches politics at USC and worked as a strategist on past presidential and gubernatorial campaigns.

“But there still is significant residual value in old fashioned snail mail,” he added. “So a campaign that moves away from it for philosophical or ideological reasons is potentially compromising their effectiveness.”

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

New eligibility rules mean nearly 2 million on Medi-Cal can now save for a rainy day

Millions of Medi-Cal beneficiaries can now save for a rainy day, keep an inheritance, or hold on to a modest nest egg without losing coverage, thanks to an eligibility change phased in over the past year and a half.

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The change also has opened the door for thousands who previously did not qualify for Medi-Cal, the health insurance program for low-income residents that covers over one-third of California’s population.

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Until Jan. 1, 3 million Medi-Cal beneficiaries — mainly those who are aged, blind, disabled, in long-term care or in the federal Supplemental Security Income program — faced limits on the value of financial accounts and personal property they could hold and still qualify for coverage. Now, nearly 2 million of them will no longer face these restrictions, putting them on par with the roughly 12 million other Medi-Cal beneficiaries who don’t have asset limits.

They still must be below Medi-Cal’s income threshold, which for most enrollees is currently $1,677 a month for a single adult and $3,450 for a family of four. However, the change will eliminate a lot of paperwork for applicants and the county workers who verify their eligibility.

For a long time, this group of Medi-Cal beneficiaries could have no more than $2,000 in the bank — $3,000 for a married couple — though the home they lived in, as well as one car and certain types of other personal property, were exempt.

“If you had $5,000 in assets, you would have to spend $3,000 on something to prove that you were beneath the limit to qualify,” said Tiffany Huyenh-Cho, a senior attorney at the advocacy group Justice in Aging. “We had people who prepaid rent, spent money on car repairs, bought a new couch or appliances — things to reduce their assets in order to get to the $2,000 limit.”

Now, Huyenh-Cho adds, “you don’t have to remain in deep poverty. You can save for an emergency; you can save for retirement or for a security deposit if you want to move.”

And those who have hoped to leave a little something for their children when they die can now do so, even if they need expensive long-term care.

The first phase of the rule change was implemented in July 2022, when the threshold was raised dramatically to $130,000 for an individual and $195,000 for a two-person household. That was a nonfactor for the vast majority of those concerned; after all, most people with incomes low enough to qualify for Medi-Cal would not have that much saved. For this reason, the total elimination of the so-called asset test ushered in this year is expected to help fewer people financially than the first change did.

Still, there are some people with more than $130,000 in the bank whose savings would have been wiped out in shockingly short order had they needed long-term care in a nursing facility or at home. Now, they can qualify to have Medi-Cal pick up that cost.

Dr. Joanne Shinozaki, a resident of Granada Hills, hired private full-time caregiving last year for her mother, Fujiko, who has dementia. But it cost nearly $11,000 a month, which Shinozaki quickly realized would burn fast through the roughly $200,000 in savings her father had left when he died early last year. Reluctantly, she put her mom in a memory care home, which was less expensive. But after a 10% increase in January, it is now costing $9,000 a month, although that includes food and utilities.

Because of the money Shinozaki’s dad left, her mom did not qualify for Medi-Cal under the old rules. Now that money no longer counts against her.

Shinozaki, a veterinarian who quit her job to coordinate her mother’s care, needs to return to work soon. She has applied for Medi-Cal for her mom and is waiting for it to be approved.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

A record amount went to lobbying California’s government. Who were the biggest spenders?

Last year was a good year to be a lobbyist in California.

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Advocacy efforts shattered records in 2023, with nearly $480 million poured into influencing legislation and regulatory decisions making their way through state government. That amount eclipsed the previous high $440 million spent in 2022, based on figures from the California Secretary of State. 

The top three organizations who spent the most on lobbying last year were Chevron ($11.1 million), the Hawaiian Gardens Casino ($9.1 million) and the Western States Petroleum Association ($6.9 million). The same three organizations were already spending the most money on lobbying headed into the final quarter of the year.

But what about the other top spenders? The ten largest patrons of persuasion put a combined $57 million into trying to convince government officials in 2023, or 12% of the total spent on lobbying that year.

#1: Chevron

Chevron, a California-based oil company, is a prolific spender on lobbyists, forking over $74.5 million since 2005 to influence state government. In the final quarter of 2023, Chevron reported spending $1.2 million to try and get its way with state officials, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, and several state agencies, such as the Public Utilities Commission, the Air Resources Board and the Energy Commission. One of its primary advocacy goals was to influence the implementation of a bill — signed by Newsom last March — that empowered the Energy Commission to establish a maximum profit margin for refining gasoline.

#2: Hawaiian Garden Casino

The Los Angeles County-based Hawaiian Garden Casino went all-in last year, spending more than four-fifths of all the lobbying dollars it has invested over the past two decades. It continued to lobby on a so-far unsuccessful bill related to casino regulations and reported trying to influence the Bureau of Gambling Control on a blackjack proposal. The casino really ramped up its spending as the year drew to a close, racking up nearly 45% of its lobbying bill in the last quarter.

#3: Western States Petroleum Association

The Western States Petroleum Association, an oil industry trade group, is consistently a top employer of lobbyists aimed at the state and has been one of the top three spenders in every legislative session going back at least a decade. In the fourth quarter of 2023, it reported lobbying the Legislature and the governor’s office and other state agencies. Among other issues, the trade group lobbied on a proposed windfall profit tax on refining gas that was eventually watered down.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

Golden Gate Bridge briefly blocked by pro-Palestinian protesters

Pro-Palestinian protesters blocked off multiple lanes of the Golden Gate Bridge Wednesday morning.

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All northbound and southbound lanes were stopped at mid-span on the bridge shortly before 8 a.m., according to CHP data. 

Both lanes had reopened by 8:30 a.m.

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Images published to X by a KQED reporter showed protesters holding large banners that said “Stop arming Israel” and “Hands off Rafah.” The latter is a reference to the Palestinian city in Gaza that Israel targeted with airstrikes this week in an operation that it said freed two hostages taken by Hamas.

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

In poll, Golden State has lost luster

Half of U.S. adults in survey say California is in decline; 48% of Republicans say it’s ‘not really American.’

Robert Gauthier Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — California’s national reputation as a place of dreams and prosperity is in jeopardy, battered by Republicans who dislike almost all aspects of the state and many Democrats who see it as too costly and a poor place to raise a family.

Nationwide, 50% of U.S. adults believe the state is in decline, according to a new survey for the Los Angeles Times.

Political polarization has intensified the negativity: 48% of Republicans believe the state is “not really American,” the survey found. Three in 10 Republicans say the home of Yosemite’s sheer peaks, Sequoia’s towering redwoods and Malibu’s beaches has a worse natural environment than other states.

Nearly 40% of Republicans don’t even think California is a good place to visit, though a majority in both parties say they have been to the state, according to the survey of 1,004 adults, conducted Jan. 26-28 by Leger, a Canadian firm that has polled extensively in the United States.

“If you are a more conservative American, you basically do not like California,” said Christian Bourque, Leger’s executive vice president and the poll’s supervisor. “Of course, we all expected some of that, but the differences are actually quite striking.”

California has, however, maintained its reputation as a new frontier, particularly among young people, who have long fueled the state’s energy.

Six in 10 adults nationwide think that the state is a trendsetter and that it has had a positive impact on the country. The share who see California as a trendsetter rises to 7 in 10 among those ages 18-34. A similar share of younger Americans also says that California’s impact on the U.S. has been positive.

Younger people were also twice as likely (43%) as other Americans to say they would consider moving to the state. Job opportunity was the top reason they cited (36%).

Among Republicans, just one-third said that the state’s impact on the country has been positive, while two-thirds said it has been a net negative.

The extent to which partisanship drives opinion can also be seen in how much Americans’ views of California overlap with opinions on seemingly unrelated, but similarly polarized, topics such as climate change, gender equality, racism and abortion.

People who see racism as an important issue in the U.S., for example, are more than twice as likely to think California is a good place to visit (77%) as those who think racism is unimportant (35%).

Californians do have notably different views than the rest of the country on some issues. Abortion stands out: Nearly half (46%) of Californians say abortion should be legal in all cases, a view shared by just over 1 in 4 adults nationwide.

Beyond partisanship, the poll underscores how economic trends of recent years have affected California’s image. High housing prices have led to a persistent crisis of homelessness and have helped drive three straight years of population decline after more than a century of nonstop growth.

Californians in both parties, even those who appreciate the state’s natural environment and cultural values, have complained that it has become too expensive, with roughly 8 in 10 California residents and nearly 9 in 10 in the rest of the country holding that view, the poll found.

Only about 2 in 5 Americans called California a good place to raise a family, and a similar share said its economy is strong.

Fewer than 3 in 10 people nationwide judged the state’s colleges and universities — consistently ranked among the best in academic surveys — as better than other states’ higher education options. Notably, however, younger Americans and adults who live in California were significantly more likely to rate California colleges and universities as better than others.

The degree to which political or ideological beliefs color such opinions was pervasive. For example, fewer than 1 in 5 people overall said California has a better standard of living than other states. That falls to 1 in 10 among Republicans. A majority in the GOP say California’s standard of living is worse than most states.

By contrast, about 1 in 3 Democrats say California’s standard of living is better than most states, while 4 in 10 say it’s about the same and fewer than 2 in 10 call it worse.

Political divisions have subsumed many aspects of American life in recent years. But California has been the target of particularly virulent attacks from conservative media personalities and politicians as it has shifted from political battleground to Democratic lock. The attacks accelerated during Donald Trump’s presidency, when the state often sued the federal government, especially on immigration and environmental policies.

Memories of Republican Govs. Ronald Reagan in the 1960s and 1970s or Pete Wilson in the 1990s have receded for many Americans as the state has morphed into an emblem of progressivism — propelled by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s push to sign laws designed to combat red-state policies on climate,abortion, immigration status, gender and other hot-button issues.

Not all Democrats are on board with that shift — 30% call the state too liberal, a view shared by 81% of Republicans.

Conservative politicians have increasingly defined themselves by opposition to California: “Don’t allow Florida to become San Francisco,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared this month as he unveiled legislation designed to reduce homelessness that included a crackdown on camping in public places.

DeSantis has been a leading critic of the state, releasing videos from San Francisco as part of his former presidential campaign in which he claimed (without proof) that he had seen people defecating on the street.

Other conservatives, including Elon Musk, have joined in railing against the state’s former COVID-19 restrictions, its laws allowing gender affirming care for minors and its policies granting access to subsidized public healthcare for low-income people who came to the country illegally.

The public pounding by Fox News and conservative social media has helped drive negative views of the state on issues such as safety: Three-quarters of Republicans say they think the state is unsafe, despite recent improvements in crime statistics in Los Angeles and other major cities. In 2022, the most recent year for which the FBI has released state-by-state data, California’s reported rate of violent crime was above the national average, but similar to the rates in states as disparate as Colorado, South Carolina and Missouri.

The policy and cultural clashes over California came to a head in December when DeSantis debated Newsom on Fox News over whose state is better governed and whose definition of freedom better matched the American ideal.

The answer for many Americans appears to be a draw, according to the poll: California and Florida were roughly tied when people were asked which of the two states better represents their values — 52% sided with Florida, 48% with California. The division was similar when the poll asked about California versus Texas.

Views on whether California is more free than other states showed a similar split, with roughly a quarter saying it was more free and another quarter saying it was less free. The rest said it was roughly the same or declined to answer.

Newsom has argued that California stands for freedom, citing its protection of abortion rights, affordable healthcare, clean air and other progressive priorities.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Who’s minding the store at the OC Department of Education?

Orange County Schools Superintendent Al Mijares does not have the keys to the nuclear codes, but he does oversee a $350+ million-dollar annual budget and almost 1,500 County employees.

Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG

The recent embroglio with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s unannounced absence wasn’t learned by the president until four days after Austin was driven to the hospital.  The public learned about his absence the next day.  Later, we learned his absence was due to complications from treatment for prostate cancer.

An extended version of this scenario is playing out right here in Orange County with Mijares’ conspicuous absence from Orange County School Board meetings.  If one were to watch or attend their board meetings over the past year, you would not have seen Superintendent Al Mijares in attendance.  A good question to ask is why?

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Austin was in the hospital for two weeks. Mijares has not attended an Orange County School Board meeting for over a year – not even via Zoom.

It is unclear why Mijares has been completely absent from his position for such a long time — there has been no public statement issued. However, like the US Defense Department, the Orange County education department is not a driverless car.  Who’s minding the shop? We suppose an unelected and unaccountable bureaucrat.  But how can we know for sure?

Mijares’ absence, like Austin’s, has raised issues about why a leader with that kind of responsibility hasn’t shown up.  Any other Department employee would have been fired.

Orange County taxpayers pay Mr. Mijares more than $330,000 dollars annually, plus benefits.  His salary is higher than every other county-wide elected official except the district attorney and higher than every statewide elected official, including Governor Gavin Newsom.

The superintendent’s office oversees the county department of education, including employment contracts, district budgets, and the department’s expenditures. The office also handles payroll, legal, and fiscal guidance for 28 school districts serving more than 600 schools and approximately 475,000 students, including oversight of the county’s continuation and charter schools.

In Orange County, the superintendent is elected and is on the ballot every four years. Mijares was appointed superintendent in 2012 and ran uncontested for the superintendent seat in 2014 and 2018. He won re-election in 2022 to the non-partisan position over challenger Stefan Bean, 55% to 45%, almost immediately after which he stopped attending public meetings.

That campaign pulled back the curtain on a tug of war between the separately elected board of education and Mijares over ultimate policy authority for the schools and programs administered by the district.  Parents groups, particularly those advocating for charter schools and others advocating against the teaching of critical race theory and for a return to in-classroom learning during COVID, received a tepid response from Mijares, who failed to take a stand for students on these and other issues.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Have two S.F. judges released dangerous criminals? Case records tell a more complex story

A group called Stop Crime Action says San Francisco Superior Court Judges Michael Begert and Patrick Thompson are soft on crime. The group says both judges have freed dangerous defendants while they were awaiting trial — but records of their cases appear to tell a somewhat different story.

Santiago Mejia/The Chronicle


The judges’ records are under scrutiny because both face election challenges in March. Most Superior Court judges are automatically elected to new six-year terms because they have no challengers, which was the case with Begert in 2018. 

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But while San Francisco’s rate of violent crime has been steadily declining, property crime rates, drug use and public fears are high, and their potency as a political issue was displayed in the 2022 recall of left-leaning District Attorney Chesa Boudin.

Stop Crime Action, founded by anti-crime activist Frank Noto with financial assistance from billionaire William Oberndorf, was active in Boudin’s recall and now is looking to change the composition of San Francisco’s courts. 

An affiliated group, Stop Crime SF, also led by Noto, recruited volunteers to watch judges’ handling of criminal cases. The group then issued “report cards” giving F grades to Begert and Thompson, quoting unnamed observers who called them arrogant, inept and biased. In the election campaign, Stop Crime Action is focusing on specific cases.

In one case, the group says, Begert, while presiding over San Francisco’s Drug Treatment Court, “repeatedly released a convicted sex offender,” Andrew Boddy, who was then accused of five additional crimes, after which Begert freed the defendant again.

Court records of the defendant provide a different picture. Begert described Boddy as “a highly traumatized, homeless, transgender woman with substance abuse and mental health challenges.” Boddy’s public defender said she uses feminine pronouns and the name Anna Boddy. Stop Crime Action identified Boddy by the male name listed in the court docket.

It’s true that Begert has released Boddy, but the judge says prosecutors never objected.

“Every time she returned to my court, it was with the agreement of the District Attorney’s Office,” Begert told the Chronicle.

As court records reflect, Boddy pleaded guilty to a burglary charge in January 2023 and, under a plea agreement with prosecutors, was returned to Drug Court for a medical referral. Begert said Boddy had some success in treatment but remained homeless and was “repeatedly assaulted on the streets.” When she was charged with another crime in May, he returned her case to criminal court.

Nevertheless, said Noto, Boddy had a record of sex crimes and violence before being initially released by Begert. “That is still 100% on Judge Begert regardless of what excuses he tries to make,” Noto said.

In another case, Stop Crime Action said Begert had referred a burglary defendant, Sebastian Mendez, to a treatment program, and released him from custody, even though he had dropped out of the program months earlier after a referral by another judge.

That is untrue, Begert said. He said he returned Mendez to criminal court after the defendant refused the recommended treatment, and that he remains in custody. Records kept by the sheriff’s office confirm that Mendez is in jail.

Such disputes are plentiful in the campaigns against Begert and Thompson, who is also being challenged for a new six-year term. 

In Thompson’s case, Noto’s organization has also accused the judge of returning dangerous defendants to the streets

In one case, Stop Crime Action said, the judge freed an accused and previously convicted drug dealer, Erik Ramos Diaz, without bail last year while awaiting trial, and Diaz fled after disconnecting his monitoring device. But Thompson said the District Attorney’s Office did not oppose the release, and he has issued a warrant for Diaz’s arrest. 

The judge provided a transcript of a hearing in his court last June in which he proposed to release Diaz and asked Deputy District Attorney Yuri Chornobil if he objected.

“Your Honor, no new charges have been filed,” Chornobil replied. “And given that, the People would be — would consent to release with the prior release conditions that Your Honor imposed.”

Similarly, Noto’s organization cited Thompson’s decision to release Darbin Hernon without bail after he was charged with drug crimes. Hernon failed to appear for a hearing two weeks later.

That’s true, Thompson said, but it fails to mention that Hernon’s prosecutors told him “on multiple occasions that they did not object to release” on any of the charges the judge had required him to face.

Thompson cited an email he received last July from Hernon’s public defender, Stephen Olmo, who said he had spoken to the prosecutor about releasing Hernon without bail. Olmo said the prosecutor told him he “will agree (because) Mr. Hernon has a U.S. Marshal’s hold on him — that means prosecution” by the federal government.

Noto also cited Thompson’s decision last July to release Joshua Vicente Lopez without bail after he was charged with drug dealing. Two months later, Noto said, police arrested Lopez again, allegedly with fentanyl and other drugs.

Thompson said the prosecutor, after asking to hold Lopez without bail, sought to delay his  hearing beyond the legal deadline. “Under state law, my only options were to dismiss the case or release the defendant,” the judge said. “The district attorney did not object to release. After he failed to appear, I issued a bench warrant for his arrest.”

Those were cases cited in the Stop Crime SF “report card” and in the campaign by Noto’s group against the two judges.

While Stop Crime Action is accusing both judges of coddling criminals, their election opponents have said little about the incumbents’ records.

“Let’s send a message to our court: We need our streets safe,” Begert’s challenger, Albert “Chip” Zecher, a business law attorney, said at a candidates’ debate in December. He did not criticize Begert or mention any of his cases.

Likewise, Deputy District Attorney Jean Myungjin Roland, Thompson’s opponent, did not refer to the judge’s record, but told the debate audience that “you can vote to keep the status quo, or you can vote for change for public safety.”

The Bar Association of San Francisco sought to question the two challengers about their qualifications and character. The association announced Jan. 29 that it had rated both Begert and Thompson, who had answered those questions, as “well-qualified” but could not evaluate Zecher or Roland because they had not responded. The Chronicle asked their campaigns about their lack of response but got no replies.

In short, the challengers are running quiet campaigns that promote their own credentials, while Stop Crime Action attacks the incumbents.

Begert, a former business lawyer and chairman of the Asian American Justice Center, was appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2010. He does not handle criminal cases but runs San Francisco’s Drug Court, other treatment-referral courts and the CARE Court — Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment — established by Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers in an effort to remove mentally ill people from the streets and place them in treatment.

Thompson was appointed by Newsom in 2022 after 30 years of law practice with private firms and is a former chairman of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, which seeks to “dismantle systems of oppression and racism.” He conducts preliminary hearings, which determine whether a criminal defendant will go to trial or should be released.

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

Anyone But HIM? At least he’s not Trump’ might not be the rousing campaign pitch Dems think it is

Apparently, it’s not the economy, stupid. Because if it was, based on the metrics, President Joe Biden would be coasting to a second term. 

Alex Wong/Getty Images


He’s not. Instead, Democrats are propping him up by lowering the bar. Their pitch: At least he’s better than Donald Trump. That’s a long fall from 2008, when Barack Obama, and Biden as his running mate, pitched voters with soaring rhetoric about “hope” and “change.” 

Grassroots Democrats are freaking out, especially after Special Counsel Robert Hur, who was investigating Biden’s retention of classified documents after his term as vice president, questioned Biden’s memory issues. The Trump-appointed U.S. attorney described Biden “as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”

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Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz encouraged voters Friday to remember that elections are a “binary choice,” and said Hur’s report didn’t recommend criminal charges against Biden for his use of classified material, compared with Trump, who is facing 40 federal charges for obstruction and allegedly retaining dozens of sensitive documents after leaving Washington. 

“We’ve got someone who is not going to be exonerated as an option,” said Walz, chair of the Democratic Governors Association, “versus someone who has.”

Walz’s comments are illustrative of how the party’s leaders and top fundraisers say they’re not concerned, including Jim Messina, the San Franciscan who led Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection. Obama’s approval rating was 38% a year before Election Day.  

Messina tells me that Democrats should relax. It’s still early, and most voters haven’t tuned in yet. 

“You win a presidential election by having a very clear choice,” Messina told me this week before he co-headlined an abortion rights fundraiser at Oakland’s Grant Lake Theater. “I used to say to Obama, ‘If it’s a referendum on the incumbent, you lose. If it’s a choice, you win.’”

Messina pointed to recent Biden campaign internal research that found that nearly three in four voters they’re trying to target don’t believe Trump will be the Republican nominee.

Voters “haven’t started thinking about that choice,” Messina said. “And when they’re forced to think about that choice, that’s when the race gets better for Joe Biden, and really, not until then.” 

It’s an example of how Messina, now a top Biden fundraiser who is among those trying to raise a projected $2 billion for the president’s reelection, and leading Democrats are all banking on a version of the “at least he’s not Trump” pitch to drag Biden over the finish line.

It’s a cynical strategy for a cynical time in politics. A look at the polls shows it’s not working.

Republicans have successfully made the focus of Hur’s 345-page report the portions that recounted how Biden had trouble remembering when his son Beau died or the exact dates of his vice presidency.

The anecdotes cut to the core of why three-quarters of respondents, and half of Democrats, have concerns about Biden’s fitness for the job, according to an NBC News poll this month.

After the report came out, Biden seethed over Hur’s question about his late son: “I don’t need anyone, anyone, to remind me when he passed away … how in the hell dare he raise that?”

“I’m well-meaning and I’m an elderly man, and I know what the hell I’m doing,” Biden told reporters this week. “I put this country back on its feet.”

Messina told me Friday that “clearly the report is a problem,” but that “the issue was age both before and after the report.” 

“The question is,” Messina said, “does it fundamentally alter the race 269 days out?” 

Yet voters haven’t been moved by a continuing stream of positive macroeconomic numbers that should be helping Biden. The economy grew at a 3.3% annual rate last year. Unemployment is 3.7%, the 24th consecutive month that it has been below 4%, the longest such streak in half a century. More than 800,000 manufacturing jobs have been created during Biden’s term. Consumer confidence, a monthly barometer for Americans’ buying intentions, hit its best level in January since December 2021.  

“This is a good economy,” Jerome Powell, chairman of the Federal Reserve, said this month. 

But polls say a lot of likely voters aren’t feeling it. The pace of inflation is slowing, but it is still up 3.4% from a year ago. Food prices remain higher than pre-pandemic levels. 

Good news about the economy usually takes about six months to resonate with voters, Messina said.  

But six months from now is a few weeks before Election Day. Is there enough time for voters to change their mind? 

Yes, Messina believes. Obama didn’t ultimately pull ahead of Republican nominee Mitt Romney until news broke in September 2012 that Romney told attendees at a private fundraiser that “there are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what” because they are “dependent upon government” and don’t pay income tax. The Obama campaign used it to reinforce the perception of Romney as an out-of-touch rich guy. 

After months of Democrats melting down over Obama’s poor poll numbers, the race changed when voters made the comparison. 

Or, as Biden likes to say it, don’t compare him to the almighty, compare him to the alternative. 

When asked about concerns about young voters being unenthused about Biden, Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi told the Chronicle last week that younger Americans “tell us over and over again they care about women’s right to choose, LGBTQ rights, gun violence protection and the planet. Now, all of those things are very much in jeopardy if Donald Trump becomes president of the United States.” 

But so much is different and uncharted in this race. This is the first time that two former presidents have squared off. Most voters have calcified opinions of each man. And who knows what will happen regarding the 91 criminal counts Trump faces over four different cases. Will any be adjudicated before Election Day? And if Trump is convicted, will voters desert him? 

What worries Messina are  third-party candidates, such as Robert Kennedy Jr., Cornel West and Jill Stein. Not that any of them could win. But that they could siphon off enough votes in those key battleground states to tip the election to Trump. 

Messina said that Biden defeated Trump by 10 percentage points among “double-haters” — voted who loathed both Biden and Trump in 2020. But if “there’s a place for those voters to go,” Messina said, “even if that person has no chance of winning, that keeps me up at night.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, a Burbank Democrat running for Senate, emphasized Biden’s passage of legislation addressing new infrastructure and climate change in a meeting with the Chronicle, and said “we have somebody running (Trump) who says he wants to be a dictator on Day One. And I think that as we get closer, that we will be able to make that case with increasingly greater clarity.” 

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