Flap’s California Morning Collection: March 22, 2012

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Elysian Park, California before the Los Angeles Marathon

Good morning!

I have taken a few days off recuperating from Sunday’s Los Angeles Marathon.

The California Legislature is in session. Today’s schedule is here.

The California Assembly’s Daily File is here and the California State Senate’s here.

On to today’s California headlines:

New ACLU report on costly realignment – counties ignoring cheaper, better alternatives

California may be dismantling its prison-industrial complex, but it’s quickly replacing it with a jail-industrial complex, a new report released late Tuesday warns.

The state’s prison population has plummeted — by 22,440 inmates, or about 15 percent — since October, according to the report by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. That’s when the state responded to a court order to reduce overcrowding by adopting realignment, which shifts responsibility to counties for imprisoning and rehabilitating nonviolent felons.

But now, according to the ACLU, the state is funneling billions of dollars to counties, much of it for building or expanding jails, instead of for cheaper alternatives called for in the realignment law — including electronic monitoring, drug treatment and vocational training. The report is the first comprehensive critique of realignment since the massive plan was adopted six months ago.

“The state says locking people up hasn’t worked,” said Allen Hopper, police practices director of the ACLU of Northern California. “But on the other hand, it turns over billions to maintain the status quo,” he said.

Beginning in 2007, the state has awarded about $1.2 billion to 22 counties for jail construction, including $602 million early this month to 11 counties for the expansion or construction of jails. The state also gave counties about $400 million this fiscal year to spend on whatever mix of incarceration, supervision and programs they choose.

The report contends counties could easily reduce their jail populations and save money without endangering public safety, principally by releasing more inmates awaiting trial on their own recognizance or under supervision. About 71 percent of the inmates languishing in California’s jails are awaiting trial and haven’t been convicted of any offense.

Dan Walters: Big voting change in California communities is a big risk

A decade-old California law and 2010 census data are having a potentially explosive effect on how governing boards of local governments, especially cities, are elected.

While all counties and larger cities and school districts have long elected their governing boards from single-member districts, smaller jurisdictions have usually used “at-large” elections in which members are elected by all voters.

It’s long been a bone of civic and political contention, with members of non-white ethnic groups complaining that at-large elections deny them opportunities to place members of their communities in positions of civic power.

Throughout the state, the issue has often been joined via local ballot measures to switch to district voting, with some successful and some not.

Home slump isn’t going away in California

The wreckage of California’s real estate crash is still washing up on the shoreline.

California, Florida and Illinois accounted for more than a third of the nation’s 1.6 million housing units classified as shadow inventory in January, according to CoreLogic, a Santa Ana-based mortgage-tracking company.

CoreLogic defines shadow inventory as properties with 90 days-plus delinquencies, foreclosures or those that are lender-owned.

On a year-over-year basis, CoreLogic said Wednesday that U.S. shadow inventory was down from January 2011, when it stood at 1.8 million units, or eight months’ supply.

This year’s January total, which CoreLogic equated to six months’ supply, virtually matched that reported in October last year.

CoreLogic said shadow inventory growth has been offset by the roughly equal flow of distressed sales – short and lender-owned.

“Almost half of the shadow inventory is not yet in the foreclosure process,” said Mark Fleming, CoreLogic’s chief economist. “Shadow inventory also remains concentrated in states impacted by sharp price declines and states with long foreclosure timelines.”

By definition, that includes California. And as a byproduct, the Sacramento region.

‘The potential to turn California politics on its head’

There’s a very long way to go between here and there, but as the campaign season gets under way, Supervisor Linda Parks of Thousand Oaks has a very good chance of making history this year as independent running for Congress. Which is another way of saying that she could actually win.

That conclusion is based on a poll conducted by Parks’ campaign team of Gorton Blair Biggs International, headed by former Pete Wilson strategist George Gorton, whose storied career in political consulting includes a tie-in with Watergate as a youth-vote adviser to President Richard Nixon’s 1972 presidential campaign (he paid someone to spy on anti-war protesters) and a major role in helping to elect Boris Yeltsin as president of the Russian Federation (the film “Spinning Boris” was based on that, with Jeff Goldblum playing the role of Gorton).

Parks’ team yesterday shared with me a polling memo in the 26th Congressional District. Although short on details of the actual poll, the memo makes three things clear: Parks is now running in a strong second place in the primary, none of the four Democratic candidates is particularly well known, and that the Thousand Oaks supervisor has a statistically significant lead in a hypothetical November matchup against Republican Tony Strickland.

Enjoy your morning!

Here is Dan Walter’s on the Irony of Politics and Initiative Signature Gathering:

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  1. […] Flap’s California Morning Collection: March 22, 2012 » Flap’s California Blog – Flap’s California Morning Collection: March 22, 2012 […]

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