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Kamala Harris for Attorney General

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San Francisco District Attorney Kamala D. Harris is a candidate California Attorney General. When DA Harris won election as San Francisco’s District Attorney in 2003, she became the first African American female to ever hold the post of District Attorney in the history of California. If elected to the office of California Attorney General, Kamala would become the first woman and the first African American in California to hold the post. The last time an African American was elected to a statewide office was 31 years ago.

For a young woman born to two parents active in civil rights in Berkeley during the 1960s, Kamala grew up amidst the chanting and singing of the Civil Rights movement. The selection of a career as a prosecutor may have seemed curious to her family at the time, but following the footsteps of the great lawyers of the civil rights era, she found her voice in the courtroom.

From the public schools of the East Bay, Kamala moved to Washington, D.C. to attend college at Howard University, the nation’s oldest historically black university, and then back to San Francisco to attend Hastings College of the Law. Her first job was as a prosecutor in the Alameda County D.A.’s office – the same office in which Earl Warren served prior to becoming a Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

In 1998, she moved to the San Francisco District Attorney’s office where she prosecuted career criminals before being recruited to lead the San Francisco City Attorney’s Community and Neighborhood Division. After a long race for District Attorney, where she started at six percent in the polls, Kamala unseated a two-term incumbent in November 2003.

From the day she took office as District Attorney, Kamala Harris had a new vision for law enforcement. Rejecting the false choice that we must choose between being “tough on crime,” or “soft on crime,” Kamala aimed to make San Francisco “Smart on Crime.” That means ensuring consequences for those who commit crime in our communities, and she has done that – felony conviction rates are at the highest level in fifteen years. In addition, she has created new prosecution units focused on child assault, public integrity and environmental crimes.

But Kamala’s approach is also about being innovative in finding ways to keep the city safe – both stopping the cycle of crimes and preventing crime before it occurs. As she enters her seventh year as San Francisco's District Attorney, the "Smart on Crime" approach Kamala has pioneered continues to serve as a model for the nation to reform our criminal justice system.

For example, California has one of the highest rates of recidivism in the entire country.

California releases 120,000 inmates a year -- seventy percent of them return to prison within three years. In response, Kamala launched an early intervention program called Back on Track. Kamala's Back on Track initiative has achieved nationwide recognition for its successes in taking first-time, low-level, nonviolent drug offenders off the streets, giving them an education, job training and other important life skills, and re-entering them back into productive society. The program is paying off -- the recidivism rate for the participants of Back of Track has been reduced from 54 percent to less and ten percent.

And her fight against school truancy provides hope to children who too often feel that our educational system does not care about them. These are a few models of successes that Kamala Harris hopes to bring to the state of California as Attorney General.

As Attorney General, Kamala will bring her innovative approach to address the state’s criminal justice problems and continue to use her twenty years of prosecutorial experience to take on the perpetrators of financial crimes, mortgage fraud, identity theft and elder abuse.

Kamala has been endorsed by California’s elected, law enforcement and community leaders, including United States Senator Dianne Feinstein, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Congresswoman Diane Watson, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Congressman, Lt. Gov., Senator and Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally (Ret.), Former San Francisco Mayor and Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, Ambassador and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, California President of the California NAACP Alice Huffman, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, California Legislative Black Caucus, Senator Curren Price (D-Los Angeles), Senator Kevin Murray (Ret.), Assemblyman Sandré Swanson (D-Oakland), Assemblyman Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), Assemblyman Mike Davis (D-Los Angeles), Assemblyman Isadore Hall (D-Compton), Assemblywoman Gwen Moore (Ret.), Los Angeles Chief of Police William Bratton (Ret.), San Diego Chief of Police William Lansdowne, San Francisco Police Chief George Gascón. She has also been endorsed by every major California newspaper endorsing in the race.

For more information about Kamala Harris’ candidacy for California Attorney General, visit www.kamalaharris.org.

In Opposition to Proposition 15

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By Hardy L. Brown –

This week, the California Black Media owners met with supporters of Proposition 15 and they made some valid arguments to support their position.

They referenced Arizona State Representative Leah Landrum, who used the Public Finance option they were supporting to make their point. So I called Arizona State Senator Cloves Campbell who just opted out of the public campaign program. The same is true for Senator Landrum and both of them are African Americans from the state of Arizona. Rep. Campbell said a public financing law like Proposition 15 sounds good, but that is the same program that has elected so many extremists in Arizona to allow the controversial illegal immigration law and other anti civil rights bills that are working their way through the legislature.

They claim it is the will of the people, but it is many of these elected officials who are passing these laws. Rep. Campbell said the immigration law can be triggered if your yard is uncut or a car is parked on the lawn. “That could be grounds for officials to enter your house and conduct a search for illegal immigrants.

And now that we have Blacks from other countries here in Phoenix I could be stopped and asked for papers of citizenship,” said Rep. Campbell. We can see California moving in the direction of Arizona with the passage of Proposition 15 and the Black community suffering worst of all. How many Blacks do you know will have the time or money to pay people to get 7,500 signatures and collect $5 dollars from them to run for office? Usually, these people get paid to collect signatures even though they do not fully understand the reason behind the cause. I have nothing against people who gather signatures, but the practice can be manipulated by people wanting to get into office with public money.

Rep. Campbell said Prop 15 benefits people who are new or not known in the community. He said he refused the funding because of the constraints. It also provokes signature problems. Some of the elected officials who are not familiar with the process won the seats and were kicked out because of technicalities.

Reporting processes are more rigorous and the restrictions on what you do with the money doesn't even allow you to donate to a church.

Nothing in this bill will prevent the rich or well connected from seeking office the way they currently do.

Remember, term limits were placed to give access to people seeking office, and we are in worse shape than we have ever been because of it. It was for these reasons and others that Rep. Campbell and Senator Landrum opted out of public financing and went back to the traditional fund raising techniques.

If you think that a rich extremist is bad for public office, wait until you get a poor, uneducated, misinformed extremist elected doing the will of the people.

Therefore I am sticking with my original position of NO on 15.


NAACP Endorses Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagan

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The NAACP, the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization, unanimously endorsed Elena Kagan, President Barak Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court, today at their quarterly board meeting.

“After a careful and thorough review of Elena Kagan’s record, we have unanimously voted to endorse her nomination,” stated President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “Elena Kagan has demonstrated a commitment to civil rights and equal justice under the law throughout her career. Kagan drew her inspiration from NAACP former counsel and Supreme court Justice Thurgood Marshall who she considers a hero and mentor. During her tenure at the White House, Kagan worked on issues such as strengthening hate crimes legislation and civil rights enforcement. As a law school Dean, she worked to ensure a diverse student body and faculty. And as Solicitor General, Kagan has vigorously defended the nation’s equal opportunity and civil rights laws. We look forward to actively supporting her nomination,” Jealous said.

“Elena Kagan has a track record of bringing people together. She is skilled at forging legal consensus on contentious issues,” stated NAACP Chairman Roslyn Brock. “Civil rights is a bipartisan issue. It is central to the core of our American values. We believe Elena Kagan has the ability to use her fine legal mind, her commitment to diversity and her ability to build bridges to effectively advocate in the Court for the civil rights and democracy enshrined in our constitution.”

The organization reviewed Kagan’s available record on civil rights including her recent authorization for the Department of Justice and the Department of Civil Rights to file an amicus brief supporting the constitutionality of the University of Texas’ affirmative action program in Fisher v. University of Texas and her brief in support of African American firefighters who challenged a hiring test used by the City of Chicago under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Lewis v. City of Chicago).

“Kagan has a keen understanding of the importance of diversity to the strength and advancement of our nation,” added NAACP President and CEO Jealous. “ It is no accident that during her tenure as Dean of the Harvard Law School, the percentage of African American students rose from 9.3 percent to 11.6 percent. The percentage of Hispanics in the entering class was 6.4%, while it had been 4.6% prior to her becoming dean. The number of African American students admitted, particularly black men -- given the national decline in African American males in colleges and universities-- is impressive Her record demonstrates a legal scholar who clearly values the precept of equal opportunity as a right that is protected by our constitution.” Jealous said.

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its more than half million members and supporters, throughout the United States and the world, are the premier advocates for civil and human rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and advocating for equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.

Letter to the Editor: Vote No On Proposition 16

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By Laura Klure –

I have considerable respect for your excellent newspaper, and I enjoy being an occasional contributor to the BVN’s news stories. I have great respect and affection for your publishers, editors, and staff.

However, I must strongly disagree with the editorial which appeared on May 6, in support of Proposition 16. This proposition is bad news for California.

Prop. 16 is totally supported by the Northern California utility Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), to the tune of up to $35 million approved by their board. This poorly written proposition is definitely a power grab by PG&E, and it is an attempt to preserve their monopoly in the territories they serve. It would enable them to expand, while hamstringing local governments.

Ads by PG&E on TV attempt to portray this measure as protecting voters’ rights, but instead it imposes a 2/3 “super-majority,” which would stall utility up-grades and prevent service to new customers.

Cities and counties already have their own rules governing annexations, and if they have public utilities, there are local rules governing the operations of those utilities.

This would write oppressive rules into the California State Constitution, taking authority away from local governments. Our state constitution is already long and troubled, and this measure would add to the legal tangle.

The power grid in our country is such that utilities sometimes need to “shop around” to find power, since electricity cannot generally be stored like water.

This proposition would prevent local public utilities from finding new power sources in times of need, or when one power source was shut down. This could be a great problem during hot summers or in other emergencies.

In Riverside, we have a local public utility, the Riverside Public Utilities (RPU) Department of the City of Riverside. RPU is governed by the City Council and by a Public Utilities Board composed of local citizens. There are also instances where they would have to go to the people for a majority vote, if they wanted to pass a bond issue. In contrast, a private utility company is run by their own board, which is supposed to operate to serve stockholders, as well as customers.

RPU purchases most of our power from investor-owned utilities, but recently they constructed a small “peaker plant,” to generate extra power in times of great usage. This protected us from having “brown outs” last summer. If Prop. 16 passes, public utilities would be prevented from doing such reasonable things to serve customers.

Whenever a new neighborhood sub-division is built, a public utility could be prohibited to serve it without a “supermajority” vote in the entire city.

Like BVN’s Brown family, I have a family connection to the Southern California Edison Co. (SCE, Edison International, EIX). My late father worked for SCE and its predecessor, California Electric Power Company.

According to the Orange County Register (taxdollars.freedomblogging.com), SCE’s official response to Prop. 16 is as follows:

“An initiative on the June 8, 2010 statewide ballot, known as Proposition 16, would require local governments to obtain the approval of two-thirds of the voters before providing electricity to new customers or expanding such service to new territories if any public funds or bonds are involved. Southern California Edison is not taking a position on the initiative, but encourages Californians to vote to express their views on all important ballot measures.”

SCE obviously did not find it in their company’s best interest to join their northern competitor in pushing this measure. Prop. 16 stifles competition.

Prop. 16 just plain doesn’t make sense. It would be akin to asking the local school board to have an election requiring a “super-majority” every time they wanted to build a new school building.

I strongly urge voters to look at their Official Voter Information Guide regarding Prop. 16. Supporters of Prop. 16 include the Howard Jarvis California Taxpayers’ Association and the California Chamber of Commerce. However, some local Chamber of Commerce groups, particularly in PG&E’s territories, are opposing the measure. Groups in opposition to Prop. 16 include the League of Women Voters, AARP, the Sierra Club, and other organizations. If you look online for the many newspaper editorials that urge NO on Prop. 16, I suspect many thoughtful BVN readers will agree to Vote No.

Laura L. Klure is an independent writer living in Riverside. She is the author of the book, “California Electric Power Company 1904-1964: A Powerful Corporate Family,” 2005.

Protect Taxpayers from Power Grabs – Vote Yes on Prop. 16

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California’s taxpayers deserve transparency when it comes to their money, especially given the current state of California’s economy. The state has racked up $145 billion in debt, and this year’s budget deficit of $20 billion threatens cuts to critical services and jobs on the state, county and local levels. Decisions to take on additional debt or use taxpayer money to fund big programs—such as a government takeover of electricity service—need voter input. That’s why we need to vote yes on Proposition 16 on June 8.

Currently, California law does not require voter approval if local governments want to use public money to develop the complex systems necessary to deliver electric service. Proposition 16 corrects this omission, giving voters a say in the process.

Local leaders who want to take on public debt or spend public money to start up a municipal retail electricity business must get a two-thirds majority vote—the same standard as hundreds of other special tax or bond situations. Ironically, California law does require a two-thirds majority vote to sell a municipal utility. Shouldn’t we use the same standard to start a utility that we use to end one?

As a former mayor of San Francisco, I can tell you from firsthand experience that it is critical to involve the voters in big decisions like funding large municipal utility programs. Voters are not only benefiting from such programs by receiving utility services, but they’re also paying for the development of the business itself. And if a municipal utility fails, it is the voters who are on the hook for a bailout.

After years of benefiting from the input of the people during my time as mayor, I can also tell you that California’s voters know a good plan when they see one. They can discern between a well-constructed plan that will work and one that is not well formed or that takes unnecessary risks with their money. And local leaders need the community’s input. Large public programs are always far more visionary—and far more expensive—than expected. Since the voters are paying for it, it makes much more sense to get their approval before the money is spent than to make the decision blindly and have a mess on your hands that the taxpayer has to fix if it fails.

Proposition 16 promotes transparency and ensures that the people have a voice when it comes to how public money is spent. It requires that a local government that wants to run the complicated delivery system necessary to provide electricity must go to the voters to lay out its case and prove it can build a system that works. Then voters can either give their permission to spend their tax dollars or incur additional public debt, or not.

Proposition 16 doesn’t decide on public power or no public power—it just makes sure that the question is in the hands of the voters, where it belongs. Please join me and vote YES on Prop 16 on the June ballot.

Willie L. Brown, Jr. is Former Speaker of the California State Assembly and Mayor of San Francisco.

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