The Roundup

Aug 14, 2019


Facial recognition misidintified 26 California lawmakers as criminal suspects


The Chronicle's DAVID GARDINER: "San Francisco Assemblyman Phil Ting has never been arrested, but facial recognition technology developed by Amazon links his image to a jailhouse mugshot."


"Ting is one of 26 state legislators who were wrongly identified as suspected criminals using the technology, according to results of a test released Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California."


"Matt Cagle, a technology and civil liberties attorney at the ACLU, said the organization ran its experiment using Amazon’s Rekognition software and screened 120 lawmakers’ images against a database of 25,000 mugshots."


California officials warn of 'unsustainable' taxpayer costs in disaster bill


The Chronicle's ALEXEI KOSEFF: "A bill that state finance officials warn could saddle California taxpayers with expensive and unnecessary premiums for disaster insurance is sweeping toward passage in the Legislature, so far without dissent."


"SB290, pushed by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, would authorize the governor to directly purchase policies and other financial products from insurance companies in hopes of mitigating California’s costs from natural disasters such as wildfires and floods. It would change current law that requires state agencies to buy insurance through a broker selected in a competitive bidding process, something intended to lower costs to taxpayers."


"Lara, who promoted the measure at an insurance industry conference last month, has come under fire in recent weeks from critics who charge that he is too cozy with the companies he regulates."


Dems' new party leader Rusty Hicks faces challenges


CHUCK MCFADDEN in Capitol Weekly: "California’s Democratic Party is enjoying unprecedented prosperity, with command of the Legislature, all statewide offices, most of the state’s congressional delegation and a heavy registration advantage."


"And the party’s new leader wants to spread the wealth."


"California will play an ever more important role nationally because of our early primary,” says newly elected Chairman Rusty Hicks. “The Democratic Party has a responsibility to build on what we have here in California. “Many are looking to California for leadership."


Sacramento City Council approves rent control measure. New cap on increases take effect soon


The Sacramento Bee's THERESA CLIFT: "The Sacramento City Council approved a rent control and tenant protection measure Tuesday – and moved up the date it will take effect in an attempt to prevent landlords from evicting tenants before the new regulations are implemented."


"After roughly two hours of testimony from tenants groups and landlords, the council voted 7-1 to pass the Sacramento Tenant Protection and Relief Act. Councilman Allen Warren voted against the measure, while Councilman Larry Carr abstained."


"The act will create a set of renter protections for tenants who live in housing built prior to Feb. 1, 1995. The ordinance will cap the amount that landlords can increase rent each year at 6 percent plus inflation, prohibit landlords from evicting tenants without a reason and create a process where tenants can report landlords who violate the act."


PG&E says it's ready to propose bankruptcy exit plan on Sept. 9


The Chronicle's J.D. MORRIS: "PG&E Corp. tried to maintain control of a crucial stage of its bankruptcy case on Tuesday as bond debt owners and insurers jostled to move forward with their own plans to restructure the company."


"At issue is whether PG&E will preserve its ability to be the only party that can formally propose a path out of bankruptcy protection, a document the company now says it will be ready to submit in a little more than three weeks. But the bondholder and insurance company groups do not want to wait, and they urged U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali to consider their competing proposals as soon as possible."


"Montali did not make a ruling at the hearing in San Francisco, instead opting to factor in arguments at another important PG&E hearing on Wednesday. But his eventual decision will prove pivotal to shaping the timing and outcome of the rest of the PG&E bankruptcy proceedings that began in January because of deadly wildfires started by the company’s power lines."


CSU says it's $1.5B reserve isn't a 'surplus,' but California lawmakers want answers


The Sacramento Bee's ELIZABETH SHWE: "The California State University insisted it didn’t do anything wrong when it accumulated $1.5 billion in reserves over the past decade, but lawmakers at a hearing this week pressed it for more details on how the college justified raising tuition while stashing away so much money."


"The hearing followed a June report from California State Auditor Elaine Howle that drew attention to reserves lawmakers may have overlooked because of the way the California State University system recorded them."


"The money, primarily from student tuition, piled up in accounts outside of the state Treasury even during the Great Recession, according to the audit. In that austere period, California raised student tuition and cut government services."


Republican John Lee claims victory in Valley council race


LA TImes's EMILY ALPERT REYES/PIPER MCDANIEL: "Former City Hall aide John Lee claimed victory early Wednesday in a closely watched race against astrophysicist and college educator Loraine Lundquist to represent Chatsworth, Granada Hills and other parts of the northwest San Fernando Valley on the Los Angeles City Council."


"The results, although not yet certified, showed Lee with a sizable lead over Lundquist with all election precincts reporting."


"Although the race was nonpartisan — no “R” or “D” appeared next to candidate names on the ballot — the special election mobilized Democrats eager to flip a seat long held by Republicans. Lee is registered as a Republican, but as he declared victory at his Porter Ranch headquarters, he vowed to embody “bipartisan representation."


Adachi leak: Second SF judge had evidence subject of police raid was journalist


The Chronicle's EVAN SERNOFFSKY: "Before police showed up at a journalist’s San Francisco home with a sledgehammer in a now-infamous raid to uncover his source, investigators told the judge who approved the search that they were going after a man who “makes a career out of producing/selling hot news stories,” court records released Tuesday show."


"The warrant’s affidavit reveals that San Francisco Superior Court Judge Gail Dekreon gave police the green light to storm into Bryan Carmody’s home on May 10, even though California’s shield law protects journalists from being forced to reveal sources. Dekreon is now the second judge who had information identifying Carmody as a journalist and still authorized police to search him in their investigation into a leaked report on the death of Public Defender Jeff Adachi, according to court records."


"I also believe that Mr. Carmody kept the original copy of the report as part of his portfolio/records of news stories that he has participated in to keep track of his achievements,” Sgt. Joseph Obidi wrote in the affidavit to Dekreon. “I believe it is reasonable that someone who makes a career out of producing/selling hot news stories would keep a copy of that as part of his resume."


Trump slows advance in China trade war. What's it mean for California, Valley agriculture?


The Sacramento Bee's TIM SHEEHAN: "In the escalating trade war between Chinese leaders and President Donald Trump, agriculture in California and the Valley stands to potentially be hit even harder than it has already by tariffs."


"Plus, a declaration was made earlier this month by the Chinese government that it was ceasing all purchases of American farm products."


"Farmers and ranchers across the state shipped almost $2.3 billion worth of crops and commodities to China in 2017-18. Most of those products have been subjected to increasing import tariffs in the tit-for-tat maneuvering between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping."


Ethnic studies may soon be mandatory. Can California get it right?


LA Times's HOWARD BLUME/NINA AGRAWAL: "Angela Warren always assumed her father, a native of El Salvador, entered the United States via airliner. It took an assignment in her high school ethnic studies class to learn that he crossed the border alone at 14, terrified of being caught. When he reached the American side, he fell to his knees and gave thanks."


"That eye-opening view of her family’s past inspired Warren’s mission to change the present. At a time when watching the news can make her feel anxious and helpless, Warren, now an 18-year-old college student, said it’s the lessons of her ethnic studies class that generate intellectual awakening and empowerment."


"It made me feel comfortable with myself knowing my family history and knowing the history of our people,” said Warren, who attends Marymount California University."


READ MORE related to Education: SF school board reverses course, decides to save controversial mural -- The Chronicle's JILL TUCKER


Riverside shooting suspect had a long criminal history, records reveal


LA Times's HANNAH FRY/RICHARD WINTON/JAMES QUEALLY: "The man who authorities say engaged officers in a violent gun battle during a traffic stop off the 215 Freeway in Riverside, killing one California Highway Patrol officer and wounding two others, was identified Tuesday as 49-year-old Aaron Luther."


"Luther, who died in Monday’s shootout, has a lengthy criminal record dating to the late 1980s in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, according to public records."


"His convictions include disturbing the peace, vandalism, battery, stalking, unlawful possession of a firearm, assault with a deadly weapon and corporal injury on a spouse. He pleaded guilty to burglary charges and attempted second-degree murder with a sentencing enhancement for use of a firearm in Los Angeles County in 1994 after he was accused of trying to kill a man three months earlier, according to court records."


READ MORE related to Prisons & Public Safety: California officer likely unaware of killer's criminal past -- AP's STEFANIED DAZIOPublic intoxication charge against former LAPD commander is dismissed -- LA Times's CINDY CHANG/JAMES QUEALLY


Huge aquatic center in Sacramento finally gets funding. Here's when constructions will start


The Sacramento Bee's THERESA CLIFT: "North Natomas is getting its aquatics center."


"The Sacramento City Council on Tuesday voted to approve $14.4 million in funding for the long-awaited North Natomas Community Center and Aquatic Complex."


"Sacramento-based Otto Construction plans to break ground on the complex within the next 30 days, said Councilwoman Angelique Ashby, who represents North Natomas and has spearheaded the project. The complex will be finished in the winter of 2020-21, a city staff report said."


Epstein guards suspected of falsifying log entries


AP: "The warden at the federal jail where Jeffrey Epstein took his own life over the weekend was removed Tuesday and two guards who were supposed to be watching the financier were placed on leave while federal authorities investigate the death."


"The move by the Justice Department came amid mounting evidence that the chronically understaffed Metropolitan Correctional Center bungled its responsibility to keep the 66-year-old Epstein from harming himself while he awaited trial on charges of sexually abusing teenage girls."


"Epstein was taken off a suicide watch last month for reasons that have not been explained, and was supposed to have been checked on by a guard every 30 minutes. But investigators learned those checks weren’t done for several hours before he was found Saturday morning, according to a person familiar with the case who was not authorized to discuss it and spoke on condition of anonymity ."


Trump's death-penalty push puts House Dems like Josh Harder in tough spot


The Chronicle's JOE GAROFOLI: "Attorney General William Barr says the Trump administration will propose congressional legislation to accelerate death penalty proceedings for cop killers and mass shooters. That could force House Democrats who represent purple districts — like first-term Central Valley Rep. Josh Harder — into a corner."


"Harder, D-Turlock (Stanslaus County), is one of the seven Democrats who flipped Republican-held congressional seats in California last year, helping his party to take the House for the first time since 2010. The GOP has targeted him for defeat in 2020, and capital punishment could turn into a wedge issue in his San Joaquin Valley district."


"Nearly two-thirds of voters in Stanislaus County, which makes up much of Harder’s district, opposed Proposition 62, a 2016 ballot measure to repeal the state’s death penalty. Fifty-eight percent supported Proposition 66, a measure on the same ballot that was intended to speed up the appeals process for capital punishment cases. That measure was approved by voters statewide, while Prop. 62 lost."

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