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California State Assembly Appropriations Passes Yee Bills on Foster Youth, Hospital Safety, Transparency

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SACRAMENTO – The state's Assembly Appropriations Committee voted to pass Senator Leland Yee’s (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) Senate Bills 3, 342, 528 and 718 today, which is intended to bring increased transparency to the lobbying process and modernize filing practices under campaign finance law, provide assistance to foster youth, and protect hospital employees.

SB 3 would set a statutory deadline for the Secretary of State and the Fair Political Practices Commission to create a modern online database for campaign disclosures. In 2011, the Cal-Access system went offline for a month due to technical difficulties, affecting the public's ability to track lobbyist activity in Sacramento, according to a press release from Yee's office.

“The public has a right to know who has influence in Sacramento,” said Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo). “This information must be easily accessible through a modern online system."

SB 3 is part of the Sunshine in Campaigns Act, along with SB 2, authored by Senator Ted Lieu, which could strengthen disclosure requirements, including requiring campaign ads to disclose the top four campaign donors within the ad. SB 2 was also passed by the Appropriations Committee Aug. 30.

In addition, two of Yee’s foster care bills were passed by the Committee. SB 342 will require that social worker visits to foster youth will take place in the home, to assure the child is living in an adequate home environment. SB 528 would prioritize access to subsidized child care, as pregnant and parenting youth are 200% more likely to drop out of high school than to graduate. In addition, it expands access to pregnant and parenting teen conferences to assist parents in utilizing all the resources available, directs the Department of Social Services to start collecting data on parenting and pregnant youth, and provide age appropriate reproductive health education.

“These bills are common sense measures to protect and assist foster youth so that they can succeed and flourish,” said Yee.

The Committee also voted in favor of SB 718, which would require hospitals to craft plans for how to respond to workplace violence and protects survivors of workplace violence from retaliation for seeking necessary evaluation and treatment.

“Hospital employees should be able to go to work without fear of violence,” said Yee. “This bill will give them the protections they deserve so they can do their jobs with the confidence that they are protected from danger.”

Not all of Yee’s bills made it out of committee. SB 343, which would have ensured that foster youth who are at least 16 years old be provided with critical documents, such as their social security card and copy of their birth certificate was held, as was SB 327, which offered legal protections to survivors of human trafficking.

San Bernardino City Schools Make Academic Gains

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San Bernardino City Unified School District (SBCUSD) continued making gains on the state’s Academic Performance Index (API), with eight campuses boosting their API by 20 points or more.

“We will continue to be relentless in our pursuit of a quality education for every child,” said Superintendent Dale Marsden said. “Our Community Engagement Plan is beginning to be implemented, and that will propel student achievement to higher levels.”

San Andreas High School, which offers an alternative program for students who have fallen behind in credits, was the District standout with a 92-point jump, leading to an API of 752.

The District’s API increased two points over the previous year to 729.

In addition, Carmack School posted a 52-point growth from the previous year, bringing the API to 843. Carmack was followed by Curtis Middle School, which had a 46-point increase, giving it a new API of 743.

Other District schools making notable gains include Davidson and Monterey Elementary Schools, Arrowview and Golden Valley Middle Schools, and the Alternative Learning Center.

The API is an index that ranges from 200 to 1,000, with 800 being the state-mandated goal for all public schools. The API measures year-over-year school performance and is based on results from the California High School Exit Exam and the California Standards Tests.

Curren Price Endorsed by Labor Leader Delores Huerta

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Calling him a proven and trusted fighter for people of all communities, legendary labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta has endorsed Sen. Curren Price for Los Angeles City Council in the 9th District.

"Curren Price is the one who can bring South Los Angeles together to make real improvements in people's lives," said Huerta. "From fighting to pass the DREAM Act, to creating job training opportunities and safer neighborhoods, Curren has a proven record of fighting and delivering results for every community. He is the type of leader that will empower and unite the people of South Los Angeles to build a better future for this community."

The recipient of many honors for her life of activism, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Huerta is a globally-recognized symbol of the power that individuals have to make positive change, by strengthening ties between people of all backgrounds.

"Dolores Huerta is a hero to all who believe in dignity and respect for all people, and I am so grateful that she supports our campaign," said Price. "She is a reminder to us all, that our community can accomplish big things if we come together for a common purpose. In the 9th District, those goals are safer and cleaner neighborhoods, job-creation and better schools."

The broad support for Price's leadership is reflected in the enthusiastic endorsements his campaign has attracted. Among the organizations and individuals who officially endorse the Price campaign: the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor; the L.A. County Democratic Party; Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas; L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson Jr.; State Sen. Alex Padilla, president of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials; State Sen. Kevin de Leon; Congressman Tony Cardenas; Congresswoman Gloria Negrete McLeod; former State Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez; Latino Legislative Caucus Chair Ricardo Lara; the entire Legislative Black Caucus; Congresswoman Karen Bass; retired Congresswoman Diane Watson; State Sen. Carol Liu; State State Sen. Ron Calderon; State Sen. Ted Lieu; and Ruben Guerra, chairman of the Latin Business Association; Efren Martinez, president of the Florence-Firestone Chamber of Commerce; Sandy Cajas, president of the Regional Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; and the Asian Business Coalition.

Riverside Convention Center Remodel Leaves Main Street Struggling

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By Rory O’Sullivan

Small shops along downtown Riverside’s Main Street have begun tightening their belts a little more and searching for ways to increase revenue while the 18-month long renovation and expansion of the Riverside Convention Center is still underway. The project that began last July has taken a financial toll on the restaurants, novelty stores, beauty shops and consignment stores that many who rely on downtown pedestrian traffic to keep them in the black.

Robert Bratton, owner of Gram's Mission Barbeque Palace, located directly across from the convention center said during its remodeling and closing he has lost about $300 to $400 dollars every single day.

The slow down in business has him looking for private investments to stay in business. “That’s what got me so scared to death,” said Bratton.

“It’s one thing after another,” said Wendie Monrroy owner of Wendie Monrroy on Main. The store sells many things from fragrances, to dishes, to furniture, as well as handmade items by local artists.

Like Bratton she has experienced similar financial losses.

Last year, even MetroRiverside LLC, the developer of the Hyatt Palace filed a claim against the City of Riverside and its redevelopment agency alleging that the closing and renovation of the convention center has impacted the hotel’s prime source of business.

Debbi Guthrie, Sr. Vice President of Raincross Hospitality Corporation, which is contracted to manage the convention center is sympathetic to businesses on Main Street, but the payoff will be worth it.

“There is a buzz everywhere about the fresh new venue,” said Guthrie. “We are receiving a record number of inquiries and meeting planners and organizations across the country and internationally.”

She said the convention center will be able to hold at minimum of 1,500 additional people. There are technological upgrades that will allow them to attract more corporate and association clients.

The Riverside Convention Bureau has been “active” resulting in her securing the filming of the ABC television show “Splash” bringing $330,000 in revenue to Riverside City College and helping fill hotels and restaurants in Riverside during this production time.

Janice Penner of Riverside Downtown Partnership said, “most of the lost business is being offset by projects like “Splash.” “The Riverside Convention and Visitors Bureau has been continually marketing Riverside as a site for conferences and conventions,” said Penner.

Bratton and Monrroy are feeling the pain now but expect it to be better once the remodeling is complete.

“I expect it to be better once it’s done,” said Bratton before adding, “I need help now.”

Monrroy’s husband Arthur said Wendie needs additional help now as well.

“There’s no way, shape, or form they'll support us,” said Arthur.

Airport Developer Scot Spencer Charged, Arrested on Conspiracy and Perjury Charges

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SAN BERNARDINO – Former airport developer Scot Spencer and one of his investors Felice G. Luciano was formally charged by San Bernardino District Attorney Michael Ramos of multiple counts of conspiracy and perjury in connection with the development of the San Bernardino International Airport (SBIA) and related companies. Luciano classified as a co-conspirator is currently at large and wanted by law enforcement officials while Spencer was booked and charged.

“Thanks to the hard work of our investigators and partners at the FBI, we were able to take another step towards weeding out corruption in the county of San Bernardino,” District Attorney Michael Ramos said. “If you conspire to commit a crime against the citizens of this county, you will face serious consequences and be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

The complaint alleges five felonies: Counts 1 and 2 include allegations that Spencer and Luciano conspired to commit the crime of Grand Theft (PC 487(a)) and presenting False Documents to Be Used in Evidence (PC 134). Spencer was also charged with two counts of Perjury Under Oath (PC 118) and one count of Preparing False Documentary Evidence (PC 134).

If convicted on all counts, both Spencer and Luciano face five years in state prison. A warrant of arrest was obtained Friday for Spencer and bail was set in the amount of $1,000,000. Spencer was arrested by District Attorney Investigators Sunday in Boca Raton, Florida.

Spencer, who was tasked with redeveloping the former Norton Air Force Base, is a convicted felon who previously served time in federal prison for bankruptcy fraud.

The investigation was handled by members of the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who are both part of the Inland Regional Corruption Task Force (IRCTF), a special joint corruption task force set up in 2010 to address corruption allegations surfacing in San Bernardino County. The task force includes the district attorney's office, the FBI, the U.S. attorney's office and the California attorney general's office.

The criminal investigation is continuing.

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