Governor Jerry Brown displayed his true, moderate colors over the weekend as he signed and vetoed a series of bills that progressives had championed. Brown seemed to swing wildly from left to right, drawing cheers and then jeers from Democrats and Republicans. And in the end, the governor proved once and for all that claims about him being a die-hard liberal should be put to rest.
Among the moves that angered progressives was Brown's decision to veto a bill that would have allowed California farmers to grow industrial hemp. Brown noted in his veto message that it's absurd that the United States allows products made from hemp to be imported into the country but prohibits farmers from growing it here because law enforcement officials claim that the plant looks too much like marijuana. It doesn't, of course, and production of this multi-use crop could provide a significant boost to the California economy. The governor, nonetheless, said he couldn't sign the bill because of the federal ban.
Brown also vetoed legislation that would have made it tougher for big-box stores to open in California. The bill, backed by progressives and small businesses, would have forced chain-store retailers to conduct an economic impact analysis of their proposed warehouse-style outlets before they could be green-lighted by local governments. Sponsors of the bill have long maintained that cities overlook the damage wrought by big chains on small, local businesses. But Brown vetoed the bill after the League of California Cities, worried about the bill's impact on local sales tax revenues, lobbied against it.
But the veto that may have frustrated progressives the most was Brown's decision to block a bill that would have allowed state universities to use race and gender as factors in admission. Brown's veto came after Republican students held a controversial mock "bake sale" on the Cal campus that liberal students decried as racist. Backers of the bill also noted that since the passage of Proposition 209, the percentage of black and Latino students has dropped in the UC and CSU systems. Brown said he agreed with the goals of the bill, but said the courts should decide the issue.
The governor, however, also signed several bills that made liberals happy. Among them was the California Dream Act, which allows undocumented immigrant students to receive public financial aid. The new law applies to students who come to the country before the age of sixteen and attend high school here.
Brown also signed a bill that bans the sale of shark fins in California. As the Express has previously reported, the shark fin trade is slaughtering millions of sharks each year around the globe. The bill was opposed by some Chinese-American groups who contended that banning shark fin soup represented a cultural attack.
The governor, meanwhile, also signed into law a ban on carrying unloaded guns in public. Law enforcement officials backed the ban, arguing that people displaying unloaded guns creates unnecessary problems for police. But Tea Party-types who like to show off their weapons opposed it, as did the National Rifle Association, which contended that it violates the Second Amendment.
Council Tables Youth Curfew
With Mayor Jean Quan casting the deciding vote, a deeply divided Oakland City Council voted 5-4 last week to send to committee a package of controversial policing proposals, including a plan for a citywide youth curfew. Quan said at the meeting that she and Police Chief Anthony Batts are working on a more comprehensive public safety plan, some of which would be discussed at an October 15 citywide summit.
Hundreds of residents turned out to speak at the meeting, most of them against the package of proposals put forward by Councilmen Ignacio De La Fuente and Larry Reid. In addition to a youth curfew, the package included expanding the city's controversial gang injunctions, along with an anti-loitering ordinance designed to lessen the drug trade. The anti-loitering ordinance was the least controversial proposal, and one that Quan seemed open to adopting.
In addition to Quan, Councilwomen Desley Brooks, Jane Brunner, Rebecca Kaplan, and Nancy Nadel voted to send the proposal package to the council's Public Safety Committee for further study and vetting. Along with Reid and De La Fuente, Councilwomen Libby Schaaf and Pat Kernighan voted against sending the package to committee. The committee is made up of Reid, Kernighan, Kaplan, and Nadel, and so it seems likely that the package will need to be altered before returning to the full council.
Parcel Tax Vote Begins
On October 17, Oakland voters will start voting by mail on Measure I, a parcel tax that would generate about $11 million a year in revenues for the cash-strapped city. The Oakland Tribune reported that under a proposal by Quan, about $5.4 million would go to police, while the rest would be used for pothole repair, parks, libraries, violence prevention, technology, and street lighting. Opponents contend that Oaklanders are taxed too much.
Voters also are being asked whether to make the city attorney an appointed position or keep it as an elected one. Measure H stems from disputes between ex-City Attorney John Russo and Quan and members of the council. Backers of the measure contend that having an elected city attorney can create conflicts, while opponents say the city attorney should remain independent. Current City Attorney Barbara Parker, who was appointed by the council to serve out the rest of Russo's term, has said she will run for the job if it remains an elected one. Councilwoman Brunner is expected to run against her.
The Occupy Wall Street movement came to Oakland on Monday, drawing about five hundred people to downtown to protest income inequality that is worsening throughout the country. ... The city council last week also approved new regulations for urban farming, allowing residents to grow and sell fruits and vegetables. But they do not address the raising and slaughtering of small farm animals. ... The decision to ban hybrids with solo drivers from carpool lanes has turned out to be a mistake, the Chronicle reported, citing a new UC Berkeley study. On July 1, the state forced hybrids back into regular lanes, a move that not only has slowed traffic in those lanes but in the carpool lanes as well. ... Netflix jettisoned its plans to spin-off its rent-by-mail DVD service into a new company called Qwikster. ... And Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and Oakland Raiders' owner Al Davis both died after long battles with illness.