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Housing for Vets and Public Access Top Ballot – Will Voters Turn Out?

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Updated nonpartisan website guides voters this primary season

SAN FRANCISCO — On June 3, California voters will cast ballots that will impact housing for veterans and public access to government meetings and records. They’ll also choose the top two candidates for a handful of offices including governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and others. The newly updated nonpartisan California Choices (www.californiachoices.org), a clearinghouse for state voter information, is available to help walk voters through the process.

“If the 2012 primary is any indication, voter turnout could be low—even historically low,” said F. Noel Perry, the founder of the nonpartisan nonprofit organization, Next 10, which presents California Choices in partnership with the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. “We hope that providing voters with clear, concise information will encourage them to get to the polls.”

California Choices examines the two statewide propositions – Prop. 41 and 42 – that are on the ballot this June, providing information about the measures in a highly accessible, one-stop-shop format. Prop. 41 would authorize $600 million in bonds to provide multi-family housing to homeless and at-risk veterans. Prop. 42 would require local governments to comply with state laws providing access to public meetings and records.

The site’s “Endorsements” table shows how nearly 20 groups of all political stripes would vote on both ballot initiatives. The interactive site also allows users to save their votes using the new “My Votes” feature. Voters can then access their voting preferences at any time from another device, including from a smart phone at the polling place. Users can also share their votes with family and friends via email or Facebook.

“Low voter turnout is very simply bad for our democracy. We’re arming Californians with information so that they can become more engaged in the political process,” said Jack Citrin, Director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley.

-PRESS RELEASE-

Greenlining Urges California Public Utilities Commission: Don’t OK Comcast/Time Warner Deal

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SAN FRANCISCO – In a protest being filed today with the California Public Utilities Commission, The Greenlining Institute urges the CPUC not to approve the proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable by Comcast, arguing that the proposed merger would not be in the public interest.

“This deal poses a real threat to low-income customers, whom Comcast has shown no interest in serving,” said Greenlining Institute Energy and Telecommunications Policy Director Stephanie Chen. Key points in Greenlining’s protest include:

  • Time Warner is one of the few cable companies that treats serving low-income customers as a meaningful part of its business model, rather than just a compliance obligation. The merger would eliminate Time Warner and deliver most of its customers to Comcast.
  • Time Warner has committed to providing LifeLine service for its low-income telephone customers, while Comcast has not (telephone issues are at the heart of CPUC’s jurisdiction over the proposed merger).
  • The proposed deal promises to reduce competition in the Los Angeles-area market, threatening increased prices and lower service quality, while providing no economic benefits to residential customers (despite substantial cost savings for the merged company).
  • The Commission should investigate the proposed new company’s commitment to diversity, given Comcast’s half-hearted record in this area.

“We believe there are strong reasons for the Commission to say ‘no’ to this deal, and we’ll be bringing up additional concerns with the FCC when the time comes,” Chen said.

-PRESS RELEASE-

Brown unveils conservative new budget proposal

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By James Carter
California Black Media

Despite $2.4 billion in unexpectedly higher revenues, California Governor Jerry Brown stressed spending restraint Tuesday when he detailed his revised state budget proposal.

According to Brown, the two-year tax revenue gains are offset by increased spending, specifically higher Medi-Cal costs and state worker retirement liabilities.

"We must follow a policy of restraint," Brown said. "Arguing with reality is a very chancy endeavor. The reality is the numbers that I've laid before you: Revenues are up a couple of billion but expenditures meet the revenues almost precisely. And that's the problem."

Last week a report from the Legislative Analyst's Office stated California is facing $340 billion in long-term costs that are not being adequately addressed. The largest percentage of those costs relate to a nearly $74 billion shortfall in the teacher pension fund. Because the contributions are mandated by state law they do not automatically adjust to ensure proper funding. If contributions are not increased, most estimates expect the fund to run out of money in approximately 30 years.

"People are concerned about young people getting what they need," Brown said. "To get what they need, they need teachers. Teachers get what they need by having pensions. The pension has to be paid for. There will only be pensions in 30 years if we start laying aside money."

Ongoing and uncertain healthcare costs are another major component of California's fiscal state.

Brown said that as people were being recruited to sign up for the federal Affordable Care Act, many people who previously were not participants in the health care system discovered they were eligible for Medi-Cal, the state's low-income healthcare program.

"30-percent of the people in California are now getting health coverage under our Medi-Cal program," Brown said. "That is a huge social commitment on the part of the taxpayers of California. I'm proud we did it but we have to take into account that it is growing. Since January the costs of this Medi-Cal enrollment has gone up $1 million. What are the unknown increases the next year and the year after that? That is why we have to be very careful with how we look at spending claims."

Brown's long-view approach to tackling California's economic troubles are winning some support from the other side of the aisle. Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Brea, is guardedly optimistic about the steps and directions Brown has taken with the budget.

"I think the governor outlined a fairly fiscally conservative budget, so he is trying to acknowledge and pay down debt," Huff said. "It's hard to call this an austere budget given that it's $12 billion more than last years' budget. But given the demand for so many programs up here I would have to say that the governor's drawn a pretty strong line of fiscal restraint."

The question is whether that strong fiscal line will be able to hold up under the intense pressure from outside groups and other legislators who want to see funding restored to programs and services cut during the recession and expenditures for new programs.

One such new program is Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's, D-Sacramento, proposal to expand transitional kindergarten statewide. The program, introduced as part of the Steinberg's Kindergarten Readiness Act, provides classes and a modified curriculum to four-year-olds who miss the cutoff date for kindergarten enrollment because their birthdays fall later in the year.

Advocates of the transitional kindergarten program site statistics and studies showing the improved academic outcomes among children who attend pre-school versus those who don't. While they may agree on the academic benefits, for opponents the clear consideration is cost. If fully funded Steinberg's program could cost an estimated $1.46 billion.

When asked about the transitional kindergarten proposal Tuesday, Brown, who previously warned lawmakers about using budget surpluses on new spending, showed no signs of support.

"A lot of people have various views on the education system," Brown said. "In California we have K through 12 and two years of community college. Some people say if we just get a sixteenth year everything will be hunky dory for the next 50 years. If that's true then some reallocation has to be made within that 15-year Prop 98 program."

Brown's fiscal conservatism combined with legislators looking to satisfy constituent groups seeking a larger slice of the economic pie could make for interesting debates leading to the June 15 budget deadline.

"The truth is there are many good ideas in health care in schooling in environment, in prison reform, in court expansion, but we only have so much money. we do live within the revenues given," Brown said. "This budget is my best cut at how to spend the money. This is taking a big bite out of our long-term obligations. The Legislature will now go over it and we'll have a good conversation about what we do."

Local Leaders Move into Position of Presidency in NAACP Branch

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(SACRAMENTO) – The NAACP welcomes Minnie Hadley-Hempstead and Steven T. Webb to the Presidency of the Los Angeles and Sacramento branches.

Minnie Hadley-Hempstead is the new president of the Los Angeles NAACP. As a resident of Los Angeles for over 50 years Minnie Hadley-Hempstead has made a lifelong commitment to youth and education. Mrs. Hadley-Hempstead is a graduate of California State University Dominguez Hills with a Masters of Science in Public Administration. She also earned Teaching Credentials from the California State University Los Angeles. As the Chapter Chair for the United Teachers of Los Angeles she was often the spokesperson for educational issues. In addition to her role with the NAACP, Minnie also finds time to participate in the Laubach Literacy Action International and is an active member of her local church. Minnie has many achievements, but her family is the center of her world. Helping others is one of their most fulfilling life experiences. Ms. Hadley-Hempstead succeeds Leon Jenkins who resigned on May 1, 2014.

Stephen T. Webb is the new president of the Sacramento NAACP. Mr. Webb is a member of the ALC (Agent Leadership Council) at Keller Williams Realty and is also the Past-President of the Sacramento Realtist Association 2008-2009 and Board of Directors from 2004-2011. In 2005 Mr. Webb became the Housing Chair for the NAACP and as of January, 2013 1st Vice-President. Stephen has been a Master Realtor three times with the (SAR) Sacramento Association of Realtors, and on the Board of Directors from 2008-2010. Mr. Webb succeeds Tyrone Netters who resigned on May 8, 2014.

-PRESS RELEASE-

Riverside NAACP Rejects Request to Cancel its Award to District Attorney Zellerbach

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By Lee Ragin
VOICE Editor

The Riverside Branch of the NAACP announced Wednesday that its executive committee has denied a recent request to rescind its award to Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach.

The request, submitted by an undisclosed outside party, disputed the merit of an award to honor Zellerbach who is currently running for re-election. Zellerbach was recently criticized for his alleged role in a political campaign incident when a campaign sign belonging to his opponent was taken down. The informal request via text message and email was submitted to branch President Waudieur “Woodie” Rucker-Hughes of the Riverside NAACP earlier this month.

Members of the executive committee chose to reject the dispute since the award did not breach any ethical code by the Riverside NAACP, which does not consider political elections in its award decisions. Zellerbach, who is being awarded in the “Law/Justice” category for his community involvement, is among many previous elected officials who have received an award from the NAACP in the local organization’s 72-year history of charter in Riverside.

In a statement released Wednesday, the Riverside NAACP explained, “We, the executive committee of the Riverside Branch of the NAACP, under the outstanding leadership of Waudieur (“Woodie”) Rucker-Hughes do not endorse any candidate for any political office. We do not respond or address any matters related to political campaigns. We, as the executive committee of the Riverside Branch of the NAACP, have deliberated and concluded that there will be no change made to our Freedom Fund Award recipients.”

The annual Freedom Fund Celebration will be held May 14 at the Riverside Convention Center.

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