The East Bay is alarmed about Arizona's tough new anti-illegal-immigration law. Demonstrators marched down International Boulevard earlier this month and UC Berkeley students held a hunger strike. Oakland and Richmond recently joined a growing boycott of Arizona, and the Berkeley City Council is expected to do the same this week. The rest of the country, however, appears to strongly support the new law, which requires Arizona police to demand identification from people they suspect are in the country illegally. According to a McClatchy-Ipsos poll released last week, 64 percent of registered voters nationwide approve of it.
Most Americans, it seems, have no problem with racial profiling. Conservatives and other defenders of the Arizona law vociferously contend that it won't target Latinos based on the color of their skin. They note that people won't be required to show ID unless they've been stopped by police for some other legal reason. But crime statistics from around the nation have repeatedly shown that cops are already more inclined to stop minorities than whites. It even happens in liberal New York City.
The New York Times published a report last week showing that blacks and Latinos are nine times more likely to be stopped by New York City police officers than whites. And it's not because blacks and Latinos are more likely to break the law. In fact, the Times reported that even though police stop them far more often, blacks and Latinos are no more likely to be arrested than whites. In other words, police are targeting minorities because of the color of their skin.
"Once stopped, the arrest rates were virtually the same," the Times reported. "Whites were arrested in slightly more than 6 percent of the stops, blacks in slightly fewer than 6 percent." In other words, 94 percent of blacks, Latinos, and whites were stopped by police even though they weren't breaking the law.
If racial profiling is common in New York, you can bet it's even more so in conservative Arizona. And now police there have another reason to target Latinos — to check if they have the proper papers. And you can bet that in the rare instances when whites get stopped for "furtive movements" or "fits a relevant description," they won't be required to prove their citizenship, either.
Meanwhile, UC Berkeley students ended their ten-day hunger strike that began as a protest against Arizona's new law, and ended when Chancellor Robert Birgeneau indicated he may soften his stance against students involved in the Wheeler Hall sit-in.
Judge Rules for Students Over Teachers
In what could become a landmark decision that permanently alters California's educational system, a judge ruled last week that some Los Angeles public schools can ignore teacher seniority when laying off instructors, because the needs of low-income and minority students are paramount. The case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, which argued that seniority rules force districts to lay off newer instructors who typically work at schools in low-income areas, resulting in a revolving door of teachers at those schools. Low-income and minority children, as a result, are deprived equal access to a quality education.
If the judge's ruling holds up and is expanded statewide, it could eliminate teacher seniority rights in layoffs, providing school districts with a way to get rid of burned-out instructors that they're now required to keep. It also could have significant effects on school districts such as Oakland, where the revolving-door of teachers in the city's low-income flatland schools has been a decades-old problem, depriving tens of thousands of kids access to quality instructors even though those children need the most help.
Governor Schwarzenegger, who supports eliminating teacher seniority rights in layoffs, also proposed protecting K-12 and higher education from more budget cuts last week as part of his latest financial plan. However, the governor's budget proposal also would shred California's already tattered social safety net for poor people, including killing the state's welfare-to-work program.
Richmond and Chevron Settle
The City of Richmond and Chevron reached a settlement deal last week that requires the oil giant pay the city $4 million to $13 million more each year than it does now for the next fifteen years. In exchange, the city will drop its court appeal of a local tax measure that would have forced Chevron to pay an additional $20 million annually before a judge struck it down. The city also killed a proposed November ballot measure that would have increased Chevron's taxes, and the oil company agreed to drop its plan for a rival measure that would have kept its taxes low and lowered taxes across the board in Richmond, thereby costing the city millions in revenue each year.
It's unusual for transit agencies to have a surplus, but BART has an extra $4 million to $5 million thanks to a surprise infusion of state cash. The agency also decided last week to hire a new police chief, selecting Kenton Rainey, a veteran cop and former Fairfield police chief. BART board members hope that Raines, who is black, will help heal the racial rift created by the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant by a white transit cop. ... And an Alameda couple dognapped their own pit bull from animal control because the animal was scheduled to be put down for biting people.