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Redistricting changes bring challenges and opportunities
By Chris Levister 

When Democrats meet in Charlotte and Republicans in Tampa this summer to nominate presidential candidates, expect to see plenty of local faces in the crowd among the funny hats and confetti. In 2012, California will send a total of 547 Delegates and 46 Alternates to Charlotte, North Carolina to attend the Democratic National Convention (DNC). Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has submitted to the California Secretary of State a list of delegates he hopes to be seated at the Republican National Convention (RNC). Inland Representatives Mary Bono Mack and Darrell Issa, both early Romney backers, are among the list of 172 potential delegates, as are former San Bernardino County Supervisor Clifford Young, Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren and a host of others. The excitement is building, but we fully expect to encounter a negative, costly and close race,” says Linnie Frank Bailey who was elected in April to represent the redrawn 42nd Congressional District at the DNC.

The district encompasses Murrieta, Wildomar, Lake Elsinore, Canyon Lake, Menifee, El Cerrito, Corona, Norco, and unincoporated areas near Winchester, including Temecula Wine Country. Bailey, who co-founded Obama Riverside and served as a delegate to the DNC in 2008 is a writer, blogger, journalist, published author and inspirational speaker. She says Democrats are looking to capitalize on remapped Inland districts.

“From our view, the remap of legislative and congressional districts in the Inland Empire is full of opportunities for democratic candidates.” Democratic prospects in California were boosted last year after an independent redistricting commission redrafted the state’s congressional map. The bipartisan group, which was initially proposed by then-GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and later approved by voters, dismantled a system designed to protect incumbents, putting many of them in jeopardy. “I think that the prospects for Democrats look very good,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren, chairwoman of the California Democratic congressional delegation,” said in a statement. “It doesn’t mean we’re going to win every seat we’re targeting. But we have some pretty poignant options.” An analysis of the state’s new map predicts the 2012 elections could bring as many as five GOP losses in the state, which would turn a 34-19 Democratic House delegation into a 39-14 one. The challenge is favorable voter registration and election statistics in the region which could be overshadowed by Democrats’ longtime struggles to compete in a region where Republicans have dominated for decades.

“The plan is to send a strong message opposing attacks on the civil rights of women, minorities and other groups. Healthcare reform, immigration and voting rights top the list,” says Bailey. The maps include three congressional districts, one state Senate district and three Assembly district in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties that could swing red or blue in November based on voter registration. All eyes are turning to Sacramento where Democrats’ chances of reaching two-thirds majorities in the state Senate depend on winning at least some of the new Inland seats. In Congress, Democratic wins in California could help reduce or end Republicans’ House majority. Bailey says granted California is not a swing state, still no state figures more prominently in Democratic plans to retake the House than bright blue California. The overall mission is three fold: Keep President Obama in the White House; take back seats in the House and secure wins in state and local districts. Bailey is concerned that California’s ‘blue’ state status permits both parties to take the Inland region for granted.

There’s a belief that the Inland Empire is a step child to donor and candidate rich Los Angeles and Orange Counties. “We can’t compete with their deep pockets particularly in Western Riverside County. The supply of well-known candidates is shallow, with most candidates for the November election having suffered multiple election defeats.” “We are still holding out hope that the President, First Lady Michelle or Vice President Joe Biden will help boost local momentum with a visit to the Inland Empire, one of the nation’s most important economies and hardest hit regions.” Meanwhile the Democratic Party’s concentration is getting thousands of people registered and getting them to vote. Bailey concedes topping or even equaling 2008 registration gains will be challenging.

Obama’s 8.5 million-vote margin over John McCain was fueled by a more than 20 percent surge in minority voting. Exit polls showed about 5.8 million more minorities voted in the 2008 presidential election than in 2004, while nearly 1.2 fewer whites went to the polls. Separate opinion polls and election results indicate that an overwhelming majority of African Americans and Latinos backed Obama. The effects of the Great Recession can be felt far and wide, though perhaps no more so than by African Americans and Latinos. While signs point to an improving economy, unemployment and housing foreclosure rates remain a disproportionately significant problem for these communities, Bailey said.

The continued instability that communities of color face in the employment and housing markets is particularly troubling because jobs and homeownership is the best way for these communities to build their wealth and assets. Consequently says Bailey much of the voting momentum and traction made by Democrats in the last presidential election has been lost to hardship. “In a lot of ways this is an even more critical race given that some of those that made it into Congress last November, with a far right agenda have to be stopped,” said Bailey. “It’s exciting, but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Bill Cobbs and friends host fundraiser for Cheryl R. Brown, 47th Assembly District Candidate

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Cheryl Brown's friends and supporters are hosting a fundraising dinner for her campaign for the newly-formed 47th Assembly District on May 19th at 6:00 p.m. at Mouton Foods located at 6830 Airport Drive, Riverside, California.

Bill Cobbs, veteran actor and acting coach, says he is happy to support his friend Cheryl Brown. Cobbs played Devaney, Whitney Houston’s persistent manager in “The Body Guard”, Reginald, the night watchman in “Night at the Museum” and has appeared in over 100 films. Cobbs was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, where his parents were hard-working people who instilled a sense of self-reliance and humility in him. One of his first acting jobs was in the Ossie Davis play "Purlie Victorious". His first television credit was in "Vegetable Soup" (1976), a New York public television educational series, and he made his feature film debut in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) in 1974. In his free time Cobbs enjoys music, reading, and playing his drums. Bill Cobb’s latest film is “OZ, the great and Powerful”, a prequel to “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and it will be released in 2013. Cobbs is also an acting coach and interested in helping others that are pursuing a career in acting. He is a resident of the Inland Empire.

As host of the event, Celebrity Chef Mouton will providing an array of Cajun cuisine at his new showroom space in Riverside. Renowned artists Charles Bibbs, and Synthia SAINT JAMES will be contributing items for the silent auction.

For more information call Anna Wenger, 951.682.2664.

Tomás D. Morales named Cal State SB’s next president

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By BVN Staff Report 

California State University, San Bernardino Board of Trustees has named Tomás D. Morales as the replacement for retiring CSUSB President Dr. Albert K. Karnig.

A Thursday May 10 news release announcing Morales as president-elect highlighted his achievements and experience. He served as a three-term president of the College of Staten Island, The City University of New York, having served in various capacities at Cal Poly Pomona, including vice president for student affairs, provost and vice president for academic affairs, professor of education and principal deputy to the president.

In an e-mail from residing President Karnig, it was noted that Morales would be touring CSUSB “to get more acquainted with the CSUSB community and weigh both the opportunities and challenges to be treated in the coming years.”

“I am honored to have been selected to serve as the next president of Cal State San Bernardino," said Morales. "CSUSB is the foundation of opportunity for students, and I look forward to working with the outstanding, staff, faculty and students as we build on the university's future together." Morales, 58, was among the finalists for the position to succeed Karnig, who has served as CSUSB president since 1997. He is expected to begin his new position as president later this summer.

“Dr. Morales' strong leadership skills, accomplished academic record and articulated vision for the campus make him an excellent choice as the new president to lead Cal State San Bernardino," said CSU Trustee Debra Farar, chair of the presidential search committee.

He holds a B.A. in History from The State University of New York, New Paltz, and earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in Educational Administration and Policy Studies from SUNY, Albany. Having served as an educator and administrative leader in higher education for more than 32 years, he is one of the few higher education administrators in the United States who has held senior administrative positions at the three largest public university systems in the nation: the California State University, The State University of New York, and The City University of New York.

From 2001 to 2007, Morales served in various capacities at Cal Poly Pomona, including Vice President for Student Affairs, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, professor of education and Principal Deputy to the President. While at Cal Poly Pomona, he established a University Honors College, realigned the division of Academic Affairs and played a key role in completing a $23 million expansion of the Student Center. In addition, Morales helped faculty to secure a $3.5 million National Science Foundation ADVANCE grant to create a university-wide program for the recruitment and development of diverse faculty in the STEM fields. Morales also served as a principal investigator of a six-year $12 million comprehensive teacher reform grant from the U.S. Department of Education. CSUSB serves more than 20,000 students each year and graduates about 4,000 students annually.

Poor, Schools Brace For More Spending Cuts

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By Chris Levister 

Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday released his plan that spares almost no one especially if voters reject a tax increase on the ballot this fall. Surrounded by a bevy of charts and graphs Brown whose nickname is Moonbeam handed Californians a dose of reality a revised plan to balance a $16 billion dollar deficit. Brown said the widening gap was caused by changing conditions on both the revenue and the cost sides of the ledger: "Tax receipts are coming in lower than expected. And the federal government and the courts have blocked us from making billions in necessary budget reductions. The result is that we are now facing a $16 billion hole, not the $9 billion we thought in January."

The Governor laid out $8 billion in proposed cuts to welfare and childcare, college financial aid, healthcare for the poor and a 5 percent cut to state workers. He then framed the stakes surrounding a tax initiative he’s placing on the November ballot. If it passes the sales tax would go up a quarter cent and Californians who earn more than $250.000 a year would pay higher income taxes, otherwise another 6 billion dollars in budget cuts.

“We have more spending obligations than we have revenue. I bumped up the revenue on condition that people say yes in November,” said Brown. “If the vote is no then you can expect trigger cuts across the board.”

The shortfall is a result of lower-than-projected tax receipts, an increase in school money under a voter-approved funding formula and opposition to cuts from the federal government, courts and Democratic state lawmakers. "I'm linking these serious budget reductions … with a plea to the voters: Please increase taxes temporarily," Brown said at a morning news conference to announce his revised plan for the budget year that begins July 1.

To help close the gap, Brown is grabbing any spare change available to the government — from nearly $300 million that the state received as part of the national settlement on mortgage wrongdoing to $1.4 billion in affordable housing funds surrendered by local redevelopment agencies in January.

Brown, who promised voters while campaigning in 2010 that he would end years of budget trickery in Sacramento, acknowledged that he was relying on "one-time revenues to handle one-time problems."

He added: "This is the best that I could do."

The revised spending plan would increase reductions in Medi-Cal, the state's healthcare program for the poor, to $1.2 billion. It would save $400 million by shifting government offices to a four-day week, lowering state worker pay by reducing weekly work hours from 40 to 38 – which would require negotiations with state worker unions.

Brown would largely maintain the $1.2-billion reductions in welfare and childcare funds that he proposed in January. Home care for the elderly and disabled is also on the chopping block, with a proposed $225 million cut that would include 7% sliced from aides' hours.

In total, state spending would increase under Brown's plan by 5.6% to $91.4 billion. The proposal assumes that total revenue, mostly from income taxes, would grow 10.2% during the next fiscal year to $95.7 billion.

Brown's plan is built around the expectation that voters will approve higher taxes in November. Without those levies, he said Monday, public schools and community colleges would be sliced by $5.5 billion, and the University of California and California State University systems would be cut by $250 million each. Other popular programs, like lifeguards at state beaches, would also get the ax, for a total of nearly $6.1 billion in extra cuts.

University officials unsuccessfully pleaded with Brown to increase their funding to help avoid tuition increases or enrollment cuts; without more funding, UC students could end up paying 6% more, and Cal State students, who already are set to pay a 9% hike for next fall, will face more limits on enrollment next spring. Both systems warn of much more severe measures if voters reject the proposed November tax measures.

The prospect of even deeper cuts to schools brought several teachers to the steps of Riverside City Hall.

“Where does it end. It’s shameful,” said retired teacher Beverly Shields. Shields, who is 53 says she left the classroom last year because of the state’s deteriorating support for public education.

“Our schools have become the handy battleground in the war over which values our society will embrace as a standard or whether we will hold to any values or standards at all.”

James Ellis, a health educator says he plans to retire this year – out of frustration. “Lord knows, I need the work. But I won’t stand back and be used as a political football,” said Ellis. “Frankly I think more and more teachers will throw their hands up and say – I’m done.”

Brown warned that the deficit could grow significantly if his proposed ballot measure to raise the state sales tax and income levies on high earners fails. He says that would trigger severe cuts in public education that would be the equivalent of lopping three weeks off the school year.

HIV/AIDS Experts: Prevention Pill Could Encourage Risky Behavior

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US experts urge approval of first AIDS prevention pill 

By Chris Levister

A panel of health experts on Thursday urged the Food and Drug Administration regulators to approve Truvada, made by Gilead Sciences, as the first preventive pill against HIV/AIDS.

Truvada first made headlines in 2010, when government researchers showed it could prevent people from contracting HIV. A three-year study found that daily doses cut the risk of infection in healthy gay and bisexual men by 42 percent, when accompanied by condoms and counseling. Last year another study found that Truvada reduced infection by 75 percent in heterosexual couples in which one partner was infected with HIV and the other was not.

Mitchell Warren, executive director of HIV prevention group AVAC, said after the vote that pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), or the method of taking a drug ahead of potential exposure to HIV, "while not a panacea, will be an essential additional part to the world's success in ending AIDS." “For the millions of men and women who remain at risk for HIV worldwide, each new HIV prevention option offers additional hope,” he added. “I think this is a huge milestone,” said Dr. Robert Grant, associate director of the Center for AIDS Research at the University of California, San Francisco, who led the

panel's research. “We are in an era for the first time when we can see the end of the AIDS epidemic.” But Truvada's groundbreaking preventive ability has exposed stark disagreements on prevention among those in the HIV community. While Truvada's supporters say the drug is an important new option, critics worry it might give users a false sense of security and lead to reduced use of condoms, the most reliable defense against HIV. “Unfortunately this kind of viral marketing leaves the perception that one can just take a pill and go out and have unprotected sexual intercourse,” said Dr. V. Diana Woods, President Inland Empire African American Health Institute (AAHI).

“The idea of taking a pill to prevent HIV or STD infections makes perfect sense but to market this drug as prevention without considering the impact of science versus perception, or the psychological, emotional and physical responsibility that comes with having sexual intercourse, is highly disappointing and dangerous,” said Woods. The trouble is adherence. How do you ensure that patients take the pill every day? Who takes responsibility for patients who didn't take their medication diligently and are not protected? “Plain and simple, in the heat of the moment people take risks.” Experts also question the drug's effectiveness in women, who have shown much lower rates of protection in studies.

“The jury is still out,” says Stephanie T. Edwards, President, Board of Directors, California Statewide African American HIV/AIDS Coalition, Inc. (CAAHAC) The Truvada research was conducted on gay males and does not address HIV/AIDS in women who account for about 1 in 4 new HIV/AIDS cases in the U.S.

Studies show of those newly infected women 2 out of 3 are African American, according to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. Studies show most of these women got HIV from having unprotected sex with a man. To date more than 230,000 African Americans have died of AIDS - nearly 40 percent of total deaths - and of the more than 1 million people living with HIV in the U.S. today, almost half are black. “We can ill afford to take our eyes off tackling the root causes of this epidemic which include poverty, incarceration, stigma, fear, discrimination, homophobia, negative perceptions about HIV testing, and lack of awareness of HIV status,” said Edwards Edwards added, in an era when antiretroviral therapy can help HIV-infected individuals lead healthier lives, African Americans with HIV/AIDS are more likely than other racial groups to postpone medical care and become hospitalized, with the result that they are more likely to die from HIV-related causes.

“HIV’s racial divide is not new,” said Woods. “Each year when national surveillance data are released, we see the ever-increasing toll the AIDS epidemic is taking on the African-American community. Each year, we ask the same question: Why is AIDS hitting black Americans hardest? There are no simple answers.”

Woods and others also worry that wide scale use of Truvada will divert limited funding from more cost-effective options and squeeze already-constrained health care resources that can be better spent on cheaper and more effective prevention therapies. Truvada sells for about $900 a month, or just under $11,000 per year. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which opposes approval of Truvada, estimates that 20 HIV-positive patients could be treated for the cost of treating one patient with preventive Truvada.

Edwards said, given the social and economic characteristics of poor African-American communities, a more systemic approach must be taken to help build stable communities. She said national policies must effectively deal not only with unstable housing and incarceration, but also with the poverty and social disadvantages of poor African-American neighborhoods.

“These policies must address the role that homophobia plays in driving new HIV infections among black MSM (men who have sex with men), so that programs mitigating that impact can be implemented.”

“These medical breakthroughs are indeed watershed moments,” said Woods. “However, we must keep moving the agenda forward with a multi-prong approach that includes providing equal access to affordable HIV/AIDS treatment, encouraging abstinence, condom use, HIV testing and awareness of one’s HIV status.”

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BVN National News Wire