California Editorial Rdp

August 22, 2019 GMT

Aug. 20

The San Diego Union-Tribune on California’s use of force law:

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signing Monday of the bill by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, that decrees that police may use deadly force only when it is “necessary” to defend against the threat of serious injury or death to officers or the public is a huge moment for the criminal justice reform movement.

Kudos to Weber for her remarkable achievement. The old standard — allowing lethal force when it is “objectively reasonable” to ensure public safety — was too open to expansive interpretation.

But at a time when Democratic presidential candidates Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren are picking at old wounds with inflammatory, inaccurate claims about the 2014 Michael Brown case from Missouri, officers need to see the new law as constructive and positive — and not as a rebuke.


Similar policies in San Francisco, Stockton and Seattle have led to fewer injuries for both police and the public. And, as Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said, the new law “merely reinforces the training and good practices” that are already in place in his county and much of the state. That’s why law enforcement organizations dropped their opposition to the bill after some of its original language was modified.

Weber and other advocates of criminal justice reform can now turn their sights to bail and sentencing reform and to efforts to make prisons a place where individuals can develop the job and life skills they need to redeem themselves.

Achieving major changes may be difficult, but the cause is right. People who make huge mistakes can salvage their lives. They should be given that opportunity — not be thrown away.


Aug. 20

The Press Democrat on merging school districts in Sonoma County:

Does Sonoma County have too many school districts?

Our snap reaction is yes.

Sonoma County has 40 school districts, as many as Napa, Marin and Mendocino counties combined. In fact, as The Press Democrat reported, only four of California’s 58 counties have more school districts than Sonoma County. One of those is Los Angeles County — population 9.8 million, including about 1.4 million K-12 students.

Each school district has administrative responsibilities — budgeting, payroll, record-keeping, curriculum development, etc. — on top of its primary obligation — educating children.

Reducing overhead would free dollars for classroom needs. Look at the Sonoma County fire districts now merging so more resources can be dedicated to emergency services.


But finances are just one potential advantage of consolidating some of Sonoma County’s school districts. Students also would gain an easier path to graduation.

Consider a process educators call “articulation,” the transition from primary to secondary schools. In the Santa Rosa high school district, seventh-graders arrive from eight independent elementary districts, each with its own program. (The Santa Rosa elementary district shares an administration and a school board with the high school district.)

Only six Sonoma County school systems are “unified” districts offering K-12 classes. Sixteen districts have just one school, and 28 have fewer than five schools.

This isn’t a new issue, and these aren’t new arguments.

We’ve been writing about consolidation for more than 25 years as declining enrollment, dwindling resources and increased competition from charter schools have translated into school closures and less money for libraries, textbooks and enrichment programs such as art and music for local students. Sonoma County’s civil grand jury recommended consolidation eight years ago, with support from some school officials.

There is currently some interest among local school officials, including Santa Rosa school board members. Omar Medina, the newest member of the Santa Rosa school board, has requested a consolidation study. West County high school district officials also have discussed possible combinations with feeder elementary school districts.

One big obstacle is tradition. People cherish their neighborhood schools and fear that they might close if school districts combine.

Maybe some schools, like some school districts, should be consolidated. Attendance continues to fall throughout the county, and state aid is based on enrollment. It might make financial sense to combine some schools — if not now, soon.

What the county could use is an independent study that factors in such variables as labor contracts, bond obligations and parcel taxes that could complicate any mergers. There may be short-term expenses; the questions that needs to be answered are whether they would be offset by long-term savings and how much students would benefit.

Steven D. Herrington, the county school superintendent, seems well placed to supervise such a study, and he has expressed a willingness to do so in the past.

However, state law prohibits county superintendents from initiating consolidation studies. They can be ordered by city councils or boards of supervisors. But cities and counties don’t have responsibility for schools, and it seems unlikely that supervisors or council members would risk the wrath of parents or school board members opposed to consolidation.

So it falls to the school districts to get this started. If they don’t, we encourage Sonoma County’s state legislators to pursue a change in state law to facilitate a consolidation study.


Aug. 16

The Fresno Bee on measure addressing teen use of electronic cigarettes:

The use in recent years of electronic cigarettes by high school students jumped by 78%, reports the Food and Drug Administration in a study done in 2018.

That same study found that use by middle schoolers of those products climbed 48%.

It’s not surprising, given how e-cigarettes come in flavors with teen-appealing names, like Captain Crunch and cotton candy. The companies making such flavors package and market them in ways that appeal to young people as something fun to try.

Now comes a bill proposed in the state Legislature to cut off sales and marketing of e-cigarettes to young people. Assembly Bill 1639 is sponsored by Merced Democrat Adam Gray and co-sponsored by Republican Jordan Cunningham of San Luis Obispo and Democrat Robert Rivas of Hollister.

While reaction in the health community has been mixed, the measure is a good first step toward dealing with what the FDA has called an epidemic among the nation’s youth.

AB 1639 would outlaw e-cigarette sales and marketing to minors in much the same way as alcohol is banned. No electronic cigarette products could be sold to anyone under the age of 21, and no one under that age would be allowed to enter a tobacco store.

The bill sets forth strict parameters for marketing, making it illegal for e-cigarette manufacturers to use images like cartoon characters or phrases that are popular among young people. No references to video games, movies or cartoons can be made. Flavors cannot be referred to as candy or be called by dessert names, like milkshake, cupcake or thin mint.

Additionally, the manufacturers cannot advertise their products as having health benefits; promotions of e-cigarettes and associated products cannot be tied to activities popular with youth, like concerts and sports events; and testimonial ads about vaping would be disallowed.

Civil penalties for violators would be established, and young people would be used in sting operations to catch retailers selling to underage buyers. Offending businesses would have their operating licenses revoked for a set period.

An online retailer of e-cigarettes would have to use an age-verification system of its buyers to be allowed to sell to California consumers.

The bill was amended this week to address concerns of the California Medical Association over penalties that had been proposed for young offenders. The CMA asked that those provisions be removed, arguing that programs that educate, and don’t criminalize, are most effective. So those sections were taken out in the latest version of the bill.

However, the American Lung Association, American Heart Association and American Cancer Society continue to oppose AB 1639 because it allows mint, menthol and tobacco flavorings to remain on the market. Menthol, in particular, has been used by the tobacco industry to target young smokers as well as African Americans, the health groups say in explaining their opposition.

The trade group that represents convenience stores is also not thrilled with the bill because it would restrict e-cigarette sales to 21-and-over shops. The California Fuels and Convenience Alliance officially takes a neutral stance, but told Gray in a letter that its members “have a well-documented and proven track record of success in keeping age-restricted products out of the hands of minors.”

Then there is the detail of Gray and Cunningham both receiving campaign donations from tobacco giant Philip Morris USA. Gray has taken $20,800 since 2012, while Cunningham received $13,000 since 2016.

The measure has a sunset clause of Jan. 1, 2022, which is when the FDA is supposed to issue a report on the health impacts of e-cigarettes, Gray said. He hopes the FDA’s findings can be adopted into a new measure.

Asked if the state should simply ban e-cigarettes outright, Gray said vaping, like smoking, is an activity that adults should have the right to choose to do or avoid.

AB 1639 cleared Gray’s Governmental Organization Committee this week, and now heads to the Health Committee and Appropriations before it goes to the fully Assembly and, presumably, onto the Senate.

The law takes important steps to limit young Californian’s access to electronic cigarettes and paraphernalia. For that reason, it deserves support in Sacramento.