Flap’s California Morning Collection: September 28, 2011


Mt. Shasta

The California Legislature is not in session and Governor Jerry Brown is continuing to sign or veto bills passed more than a week ago. The deadline for action on the legislation is October 9.

On to today’s California headlines:

L.A. County rejects bid for second Latino-majority district

After hours of emotional testimony from hundreds of speakers, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a political redistricting map late Tuesday largely preserving the status quo, protecting incumbents and rejecting demands that the board create a second Latino-majority district.

Tuesday’s 4-to-1 vote sets the stage for a costly legal battle, pitting the county against Latino activists who are expected to accuse the supervisors of protecting white incumbents at the expense of the voting rights of Latinos.

They and Supervisor Gloria Molina argue that the county is repeating mistakes of the past. Two decades ago, federal courts sided with Latino activists and found white county supervisors for decades had systematically split growing Latino neighborhoods to protect incumbents and prevent the emergence of a Latino challenger. The voting rights lawsuit cost $14 million and the county was forced to adopt new maps, which led to the election of Molina. She was the first nonwhite supervisor elected to the board since the late19th century.

In the end, Mark Ridley-Thomas, a black supervisor who had been allied with Molina, switched sides and supported a plan by Supervisor Don Knabe. That plan largely preserves the five existing districts. Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky, a possible L.A. mayoral candidate, and Michael D. Antonovich also backed Knabe’s plan.

Touting jobs, Brown signs a pair of bills and curses ‘too damn many regulations’

Gov. Jerry Brown signed two bills Tuesday that signaled he and other Democrats are willing to relax their concerns about the environment if it means a promise of jobs.

Over the objection of some environmental groups that fear that the landmark California Environmental Quality Act will be compromised, Brown declared that getting people back to work takes precedence.

“We’ve got to remove some regulations to speed things up,” Brown said at a bill signing ceremony in Los Angeles. “We’re going to protect the environment, but we’re also going to do it in a practical way. There are too damn many regulations, let’s be clear about that.”

One bill, SB 292, paves the way for a $1.2 billion plan for a new 72,000-seat stadium in Los Angeles and the expansion of the downtown Los Angeles convention center. The other, AB 900, will give Brown the power to approve relaxed environmental rules for projects valued at more than $100 million.

The legislation won’t affect the 49ers’ plan to build a stadium in Santa Clara, because the deadline to file a lawsuit over environmental issues on that project has passed. It may, however, apply if the Oakland A’s attempt to build a new stadium in San Jose and the Sacramento Kings try to build a new arena.

Regardless of its reach, AB 900 concerns some environmentalists who see it as a stark reminder of the diminishing political will for strong environmental standards in the face of the withering

Amazon, theatrics and the art of a deal

The play, it must be noted, was largely produced by the California Retailers Association, the trade group that represents the giants of the brick-and-mortar industry, including Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Home Depot and the like.

The Amazon loophole had been fought for years by mom-and-pop retailers and advocates for school kids and the infirm elderly who were suffering from budget cuts that resulted partly from the uncollected sales taxes.

But it wasn’t until this year, when Walmart and Target got into the game, that the balance of power shifted.

That Amazon executive knew that, this time, his competitors had the resources to take this play out of the Capitol and produce it under the bright lights of a public ballot-measure campaign. Amazon could pursue its referendum, and possibly win, but in the process it would become the target of a multimillion-dollar television advertising campaign that would tarnish its name — perhaps using aggrieved Little Leaguers, struggling schoolchildren and disabled seniors to deliver the message.

Brown, who’s learned a little something about the art of politics over the years, summed up how the deal came together in remarks last week after signing the bill. “We were threatening the tax and Amazon was threatening the referendum. And when you get two threats, that gives you an opportunity to find a compromise.”

No one ever said politics was pretty. But that doesn’t mean it can’t occasionally be artful.

Prop. 8 lawsuit videos stay under wraps for now

The videos of last year’s same-sex marriage trial in San Francisco will remain sealed, at least for now, while a federal appeals court considers arguments by sponsors of Proposition 8 that making the recordings public would endanger witnesses and damage the “credibility and integrity of the federal judiciary.”

Chief U.S. District Judge James Ware ruled Sept. 19 that the videos would be released this Friday unless a higher court intervened. On Monday, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco issued a temporary stay, which is likely to be renewed while the appeals court and the U.S. Supreme Court review the dispute.

Ware’s predecessor, Judge Vaughn Walker, presided over the January 2010 trial on Prop. 8, the 2008 initiative that banned same-sex marriage in California. Under a new rule that allowed camera coverage, Walker approved a live telecast to other federal courthouses and proposed recording the trial for the court’s website, but the Supreme Court overruled him.

The court ruled 5-4 that Walker had not allowed enough time for public comment under local court regulations. The justices also indicated they agreed with Prop. 8’s sponsors that cameras would intimidate their witnesses.

Walker continued recording the trial and told the opposing lawyers they could use the videos in their closing arguments. He said he did not intend a public broadcast.

Walker ruled in August 2010 that Prop. 8 discriminated unconstitutionally against gays and lesbians, a decision that the measure’s sponsors have challenged in the appeals court.

Walker has played brief excerpts of the videos in lectures at colleges, both before and after leaving the bench in February, prompting accusations by Prop. 8’s sponsors that he was violating his own promises, the court’s rules and the Supreme Court’s decision.

Enjoy your morning!


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