California Black News Brief: Stories to Watch – Week Beginning 2/23/2020

Written by on March 14, 2020

CA. Black Caucus Chair to Introduce Reparations Bill

Assemblymember  Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, has introduced, a new bill, AB 3121. It calls for setting up a task force to study and develop reparation proposals for African Americans.

“Existing law,” the language of the legislation reads, “requests the Regents of the University of California to assemble a colloquium of scholars to draft a research proposal to analyze the economic benefits of slavery that accrued to owners and the businesses, including insurance companies and their subsidiaries.”

AB 3121 requires eight members appointed to the task force.

The proposal would empower the group to “identify, compile, and synthesize the relevant corpus of evidentiary documentation of the institution of slavery that existed within the United States and the colonies,” the language goes on. “ The bill would require the Task Force to recommend, among other things, the form of compensation that should be awarded, the instrumentalities through which it should be awarded, and who should be eligible for this compensation.”

Other members of the CLBC are co authors of AB 3121, including Senators Steven Bradford (D-Los Angeles) and Holly J. Mitchell (D-Los Angeles); Assemblymembers include Autumn Burke (D-South Bay, Los Angeles), Jim Cooper (D-Sacramento), Mike Gipson (D-Carson), Chris R. Holden (D-Pasadena), Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles), and Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento).

The Assembly has not yet assigned the bill to a policy committee for review.

Caught In The Gap: Californians Facing Evictions Still Waiting on Aid State Promised

Any day now Anita Miller could become homeless.

The 58-year-old single woman, who lives in Long Beach, is just waiting for the county Sheriff to show up and formally remove her from the two-bedroom apartment she has lived in for 18 years now.

“I keep hearing that the state is spending money to prevent homelessness, to help people who are struggling to pay rent, to keep a roof over their heads,” says Anita Miller. “But how do you get help?”

In his 2019-20 budget, Gov. Newsom allocated $500 million to help cities and counties provide rental assistance, legal aid and other resources to help their residents prevent evictions.

Then in his state of the state last week, the governor announced another $650 million to expand that initiative.

The governor said providing upstream help to residents is a priority for him by “ preventing homelessness in the first place through rent subsidies and rapid rehousing to help people one job loss, one illness, away from homelessness.”

But most Californians, like Miller – she suffered both a job loss and an illness – do not know where they can apply for emergency rental assistance or legal aid. And when they do, their requests are turned down.

Two weeks ago, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled that Beach Front Properties, the company that manages the apartment complex where Miller lives, can evict her for the $10,830 in back rent and fees she owes them.

Nearly half of that amount is accrued fees, including attorney and miscellaneous costs. Then another $4,320 is for a line item on the court judgment called “holdover damages.” That is a legal penalty for a tenant staying in possession of a property after his or her lease expires.

“I’m on a month-to-month arrangement. I am not on an annual lease, how is this legal?” Miller asks.

Miller says she fell behind on her rent after she suffered injuries in a 2018 car accident. According to Miller, she now has discs in her neck and in her lower back, and torn meniscuses in both knees.

According to Gov. Newsom’s office, the money for rental assistance and legal aid is already available for counties and cities.

California Black Media is investigating which counties have received money and set up programs to help their residents.

Meanwhile, Miller is preparing for the worst.

“Sometimes I wonder what role do businesses like apartment complexes have in helping to solve this homelessness crisis,” she asked. “I’ve been here for a long time and paying my rent on time. Obviously, I was doing something right. All I need is a break until I can pay them what I owe. I’ll have it soon.”

Two New Bills Threaten Your “Right to Know”

Under current California law, all public notices must be published in newspapers.

Signed into law in Sept. 27, 2016 by former Gov. Jerry Brown,  the goal of the legislation is to make sure citizens are aware of the activities of their government.

But two new bills making their way through the state legislature are threatening to change that.

If passed, AB 2711 that Assemblywoman Susan Eggman (D-Stockton) introduced would green light the San Joaquin Regional Transit District to post bid notices that exceed $150,000 on a “public internet website.”

Another bill that Assemblyman Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) introduced would allow transit districts in Alameda and Contra Costa counties to post all “ordinances and notices” on the district’s internet websites.

The California Newspaper Publishers Association says it is watching the bills closely.

“While the Internet is a great resource for information, public notices have been and remain most effective in newspapers. Newspapers are the watchdogs of their local communities and can most effectively monitor the actions of their respective local governments,” the CNPA website reads. “Public notices don’t just keep local residents informed. They also hold public officials and agencies accountable. Additionally, public notices in newspapers are permanent records that cannot be altered or deleted.

Neither bill has been assigned to a policy committee in the Assembly but both are expected to be heard for the first time in March.

For Homeless Housing, Gov. Makes 286 State Properties Available for Free  

If you or somebody you know is interested in real estate development or running shelters for formerly homeless people, now is the time to start paying attention to what’s going on in your city and county.

Last week, in his State of the State speech to the legislature, Gov. Newsom announced that he issued an executive order to offer 286 properties to local governments  at no cost so that cities and counties can submit housing and shelter proposals for emergency housing.

“As a former mayor I get that localism is determinative and that all levels of government must work together to get Californians off the street and into housing and supportive services,” said Gov. Newsom. “The state is stepping up by making land available to cities and counties willing to meet this moment head-on. I invite local leaders to use this land on what works for their community’s homeless needs so that we can begin to make meaningful progress to help individuals experiencing homelessness.”

The properties include vacant lots, fairgrounds, armories and other state buildings, according to the governor’s office. The goal of the governor’s decision is to require state agencies “to take urgent  action to make state properties and facilities available to rapidly increase housing and shelter options.”

The Department of General Services has developed an interactive map with the locations of the properties.

It Rhymes With Reparations: California To Pay For Failing to Educate Low Income Kids

The State of California settled a two year-long lawsuit for failing to improve literacy rates among elementary school children.

Last Thursday, the state signed a $50 million agreement geared towards low-income schools to allow equal access to comprehensive literacy programs.

The money from the settlement will go to 75 elementary schools in California that were chosen based on those schools’ overall performances on standardized reading exams.

The settlement also requires the state to propose legislation to improve literacy instruction going forward.

Governor Gavin Newsom will reportedly use $600 million of 2020-21 budget for grants to help underprivileged children, according to Cal Matters.

According to the initial lawsuit, Ella T. v. State of California, students of color in low-income schools did not receive the “intensive support” needed to maintain individual literacy standards.

In order to combat this, the agreement requires the state to advise schools on understanding the challenges students of color face in the classroom.

The lawsuit was filed by the pro-bono law firm Public Counsel and Morrison & Foerster LLP.

“Ella T. v. State of California is a landmark education case brought under the California Constitution that seeks to vindicate the right of all students to access literacy, no matter their zip code,” it states on the Morrison & Foerster website.

Morrison & Foerster also state that they got involved with this lawsuit “on behalf of California students who have been deprived of access to literacy and received schooling that is unequal to the schooling provided to other students in the State of California.”

According to their website, the lawsuit required that California provides students with, “evidence-based literacy instruction at the elementary and secondary level, a stable, supported, and appropriately trained teaching staff, opportunities for their parents and families to engage in students’ literacy education and school conditions that promote readiness for learning.” Gov. Newsom’s press secretary Vicky Waters said in a statement, “California is committed to closing opportunity gaps by directing extra support and resources to school districts and schools that serve students who need extra help.”


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