California Editorial Rdp

March 13, 2019

March 13

The Sacramento Bee on being able to trust police on deadly force reform:

Gov. Gavin Newsom is slated to meet with law enforcement groups this week. In recognition of National Sunshine Week — when we honor the importance of open and transparent government — perhaps the governor can ask them why they’re working so hard to undermine Senate Bill 1421.

SB 1421 requires law enforcement agencies to release the disciplinary records of officers involved in shootings and other serious misconduct. The bill’s author, state Senator Nancy Skinner, wrote the bill to be retroactive, applying to past as well as future records.

Law enforcement groups lobbied unsuccessfully against the bill. Now that it’s the law, many of them have refused to comply. In fact, some police agencies destroyed old records before the new law took effect.

Other police departments have refused to turn over records from past years, claiming the law only applies to records created after the law went into effect in January. The Sacramento Bee and the Los Angeles Times have filed a lawsuit against Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones for his refusal to comply with the law.

Police unions have also sued to block the release of records, but a successive string of judges has dismissed their arguments. According to the Fresno Bee: “One of the unions that sued was a police officers association in Los Angeles. A Superior Court judge there, Mitchell L. Beckloff, addressed the Jan. 1 date issue in ruling against the union: ‘The unambiguous language (in the bill) demonstrates the operation of SB 1421 has nothing to do with the date on which a personnel record was created — it applies to all records.’ On Wednesday the state Supreme Court upheld Beckloff’s ruling and closed the Los Angeles case.”

Some agencies —like the California Highway Patrol — have complied with the bill. We commend their obedience to the law. It’s especially important because we trust them to enforce laws for the rest of us.

Yet too many law enforcement officials now stand in open defiance of SB 1421. This is distressing because some police misconduct reports obtained by journalists with the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley reveal shocking crimes by those we trust to serve and protect.

“Their crimes include shoplifting, embezzlement and murder. Some cops molested kids and downloaded child pornography. Others beat their wives, girlfriends or children; trafficked drugs; stole money from their departments; and, in one case, robbed a bank,” according the San Jose Mercury News.

In San Diego, records released by the sheriff’s department revealed that “a lieutenant stole “well over’ $100,000 from her church. A deputy was accused of biting his wife and lying about it. Another deputy went to Starbucks instead of responding to a call for service,” according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

What other horrors will be revealed? We don’t know, but police unions sure are working hard to make sure we never find out. Their fight against transparency and accountability seriously undermines their credibility at a critical time.

These same groups now oppose Assembly Bill 392, which would establish new rules for when police officers can use deadly force. The current law gives police the overly broad authority to kill. AB 392 would limit the circumstances in which police could use deadly force.

Law enforcement derailed a similar bill last year. This year, they’ve proposed a bill of their own, Senate Bill 230. It would create new training programs for officers, but put no limits on when they can use deadly force. It’s a decoy bill designed to thwart real reform.

Yet the same police groups refusing to comply with the new transparency law now want to us to trust them to draft reforms they oppose. We don’t think so.

Gov. Newsom has pledged to work on deadly force reform, but he hasn’t said whether he favors AB 392 or law enforcement’s sham bill. The issue presents a challenge to our new governor, who campaigned on a motto of “courage for a change.”

Changing deadly force policy will certainly test his courage. And law enforcement’s defiance of SB 1421 speaks volumes about their trustworthiness as partners in reform.


March 11

Los Angeles Times on green power running up against desert conservation in California:

California lawmakers’ grand ambitions to fight climate change are running into a familiar obstacle: the parochial concerns of local governments and property owners.

The latest battle over state needs vs. local control is being fought in San Bernardino County, where the Board of Supervisors voted last month to ban solar and wind farms across vast stretches of rural desert communities. The decision was cheered by residents who have complained that the proliferation of large renewable energy projects threatened to wipe out their scenic vistas and upend the fragile desert ecosystem.

San Bernardino County’s ban comes just as California is supposed to be dramatically ramping up its renewable energy usage as part of the state’s effort to slash the carbon emissions that promote climate change. Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill requiring utility companies to get 60% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030, and 100% from zero-carbon sources by 2045. And demand for power is only going to grow as California shifts the transportation sector from fuel pumps to the electric grid through battery-powered cars, buses and trucks.

Weaning the state completely off electricity produced from fossil fuels will require a significant expansion of green power sources, such as wind turbines and solar panels, as well as the development of batteries to store power when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. Utilities are banking on more large-scale solar and wind farms which, because of their economies of scale, can produce electricity as cheaply as fossil-fuel-powered plants. But those projects become more difficult to build as rural communities restrict land.

San Bernardino County isn’t alone. Los Angeles County bans large-scale wind farms in its unincorporated areas. San Diego, Inyo and Solano counties have put restrictions on large-scale wind installations. The Obama-era Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan enacted in 2016 set aside only 388,000 acres — roughly 4% of 10.8 million acres of federal land — for commercial-scale renewable energy projects.

The Times Editorial Board supported the desert plan as a good compromise that balanced the demand for green energy projects with the need to preserve public land and the desert ecosystem. Yet there’s no ignoring the fact that as more and more land is taken off the table for renewable energy development, the green power projects California needs to reduce fossil fuel consumption become harder to build.

Some of the opposition in San Bernardino County is driven by residents who simply don’t like the idea of solar panels or wind turbines marring their pristine views. But it would be too simplistic to dismiss all of San Bernardino County’s concerns as just the typical NIMBY response. The resistance also stems from a real debate among climate activists in California about how the state should meet its ambitious renewable energy goals.

On one side are those who advocate decentralizing energy generation by developing smaller installations, such as solar panels on rooftops and parking lots, that can keep delivering local power if a fire or other disaster knocks out transmission lines. On the other are those who want to develop more industrial-scale projects that can generate lots of cheap green power, along with transmission lines to deliver the electricity wherever it’s needed.

They are both right. The state needs an “all of the above” approach to renewable energy. The pushback in San Bernardino and other rural counties ought to prompt the state and utilities to do much more to support the installation of solar panels and small-scale green power investments in urban areas. But local governments also can’t close off vast swaths of land to green power — not if California is going to reach 100% renewables and decarbonize the economy fast enough to prevent the most devastating effects of climate change.


March 8

The Mercury News on anti-vaxxers’ refusal to inoculate children endangering lives:

The ongoing failure by a small, vocal group of California parents to vaccinate their children against measles and other deadly diseases is blatantly irresponsible.

It’s bad enough that anti-vaxxers ignore sound science and put the lives of their children at risk. But it’s unacceptable that their actions also threaten the lives of those who are too young to be vaccinated or can’t receive the preventive treatment for medical reasons.

These parents claim that vaccinations put children at a higher risk of autism, a myth stemming from a 1998 Lancet article that the magazine later retracted. A British medical board took away the author’s medical license after finding Dr. Andrew Wakefield “had been dishonest, violated basic research ethics rules and showed a ‘callous disregard’ for the suffering of children involved in his research.”

Responsible scientists have been trying to repair the damage ever since. A comprehensive new study by researchers at Copenhagen’s Statens Serum Institute of 500,000 people concluded that there was no link between autism and the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella. The study, published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, was just the latest of a series of scientific investigations offering unequivocal evidence that vaccines are safe.

The issue remains a concern because a small group of anti-vaxxers continue their misguided efforts.

California’s vaccination rate for kindergarten children showed a decline in the state’s most recent assessment, falling from 95.6 percent in 2016 to 95.1 percent in 2018. The difference may seem small, but it’s significant. Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody says a minimum 94 percent immunization rate is needed to guard against an outbreak.

Every Bay Area county, with the exception of one, also showed a vaccination rate decrease, including Alameda County (97.2 percent to 97.1 percent), Contra Costa County (97.0 percent to 96.3 percent), San Francisco (95.6 percent to 94.9 percent), and Santa Clara County (97.1 percent to 96.7 percent). San Mateo County’s rate improved from 96.5 percent to 96.9 percent.

It should be alarming that Santa Cruz (90.4 percent) is below the desired level to prevent an outbreak. And seven rural California counties are markedly worse, including Calevaras (88.1 percent), El Dorado (89.6 percent), Humboldt (88.4 percent), Mendocino (86.8 percent), Nevada (81.7 percent), Sutter (78.2 percent), Trinity (84.5 percent) and Tuolumne (86.5 percent).

This, despite the Legislature in 2015 passing a mandatory child vaccination law introduced by Dr. Richard Pan, a state senator from Sacramento. Health officials believe the decline is largely due to parents skirting the law by seeking doctors who will grant bogus medical exemptions for their children. Pan is considering legislation to close this loophole. It can’t come too soon.

The vaccination rate matters. Bay Area health officials on Wednesday reported the first measles outbreak of the year with three confirmed cases, in Santa Clara, San Francisco and Santa Cruz counties.

The state of Washington is experiencing an even larger outbreak with 70 cases. It should come as no surprise that the great majority of those cases are in Clark County, which has an immunization rate of only 78 percent.

Nor should Californians forget the 2015 outbreak at Disneyland, where more than 150 people became infected with the highly contagious disease.

The Centers for Disease Control continues to call vaccines “one of the greatest public health developments of the last century.” Prior to 1963, before the development of the measles vaccination, more than 500,000 cases of measles were reported in the United States every year, resulting in nearly 50,000 hospitalizations and 450-500 deaths.

It’s time to stop endangering lives by perpetuating misinformation about vaccines. Parents have a responsibility to protect their children and others from disease and even death.

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