California Editorial Rdp
San Francisco Chronicle on Trump bringing on a government shutdown:
If any proof is needed of Washington’s gridlocked politics, this week is prime evidence. Come midnight Friday, a government shutdown could occur, cutting off all but emergency programs. Think park closures, darkened offices and worried global markets.
The outcome is avoidable and maybe likely, given such enormous stakes. Both Democrats and Republicans have plenty to lose as fall elections loom and a blame game clicks in to point fingers.
A tangle of issues such as immigration, military spending and social spending are darkening chances. By far the biggest factor is President Trump, who blew up late-inning talks by describing Haiti and the countries of Africa in vulgar terms. His racially tinged language is destroying the deal-making he fancies himself good at.
His unhinged conduct is earning Washington a new label: government by patchwork. Since December, federal agencies have run on financial fumes, getting by on temporary spending plans with a long-term blueprint just out of reach.
Trump’s coarse, jittery nature is destroying chances for negotiations, and failure will tarnish both parties. If a shutdown happens, it will hit Republicans far harder given their control of the White House and Congress. Democrats will be targeted as complicit, though the charge won’t stick as easily. Trump will preside over a mess he abetted.
The immediate hurdle is immigration. Some 700,000 “Dreamers,” a quarter of which reside in California, are living on borrowed time. The status of these immigrants, brought here as children by undocumented parents, must be legalized or they face deportation. Party leaders were on the verge of crafting a deal that appeared to swap money for Trump’s prized wall along the Mexican border for safeguards for Dreamers.
That’s when things blew up, courtesy of Trump and his now-famous obscenity. He wanted more drastic immigration limits that upended a brewing compromise. True to form, he’s denying the word he used and accusing Democrats of splintering negotiations.
There are other tensions. Hawks, including Trump, want more money to build up the military, an expenditure contained in the stalled deal. Democrats want to trade those funds for a pledge to spend more on non-military programs. The Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, is itself a bargaining chip, though both parties favor it, especially in an election year.
Government finances are important but also secondary to a larger point. An erratic, self-justifying president is poisoning the process by putting his wild unpredictability at the center of a major decision. Feuding with both parties, evading responsibility and spewing out insults won’t work.
Such is the power of the presidency amid a government stalemate. Instead of leading the way toward a brokered solution, Trump is blasting things apart. It’s a lapse in leadership that every American will notice if the federal lights go out this week.
The San Diego Union-Tribune on emergency warning system needing to be fixed:
Saturday’s terrifying experience in Hawaii — in which a civil defense worker’s mistake, uncorrected for 38 minutes, led residents to get an emergency alert on their smartphones warning them to take shelter because of an inbound ballistic missile — is only the latest and most egregious example of problems with the nation’s emergency warning system.
Since 2012, local officials have been able to send short, loud messages to smartphones about dangerous weather conditions, abducted children and threatening fugitives. But there is plenty of evidence the system isn’t nearly as sophisticated and foolproof as it could be. It needs to have safeguards to ensure false alarms aren’t issued. It also needs to be able to send much more targeted messages to avoid creating panic in areas that aren’t at risk. This problem led officials to be cautious about issuing alerts last year as devastating Hurricane Harvey neared Houston and at the start of the deadly Wine Country fires in Northern California — prompting California’s two senators to raise questions.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai launched an effort this month to push U.S. telecommunications giants and smartphone makers to sharply upgrade the emergency alert system, allowing for geo-targeted alerts by Nov. 30, 2019. A report on the Recode website said these companies were pushing back and asking for more time to implement the changes. Apple also warned that the requirement could drain iPhone batteries.
The FCC should take these concerns seriously. But it should also demand change as soon as is prudently possible. It is obvious that America needs a much better emergency alert system.
The Mercury News on crime going down in Oakland, rising in San Jose:
Bay Area crime statistics these days seem topsy turvy. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.
In Oakland, violent crime plunged 23 percent between 2012 and 2017, including homicides, robberies, rapes and assault. A city that once seemed out of control is becoming less dangerous.
In East Palo Alto, which was the per-capita murder capital of America in the 1990s, last year there was only one homicide — not a street crime but a domestic incident. Families now let their kids play outside or walk to the store without fear of random gunfire. It has been a magical transformation.
In San Jose, however, crime was up last year — particularly juvenile crime, whose wild percentage increases might imply the city is overrun by rampaging teenage Huns: As of November, police showed a 69 percent year-to-date increase in juvenile arrests for robbery, 65 percent increase for burglaries and 42 percent for overall violent crimes. Car thefts by juveniles more than doubled to 124.
The capital of Silicon Valley still is not the South Side of Chicago. The numbers of crimes remain low for a city of a million people. Oakland, with an estimated 426,000 residents, still averages 1 1/2 times the amount of violent crime as San Jose.
In addition, some of the community-policing strategies that have helped Oakland and East Palo Alto get crime under control in recent years are the ones that help keep San Jose a pretty safe city. Even if it can’t officially keep its “safest big city in America” bragging rights, it is one of the safest.
There are some unnerving trends, however. The main one is a new pattern of juvenile crime sprees in the city that are not gang-related but appear to be ad hoc groups of kids committing robberies, carjacking and other offenses.
One six-hour spree in November resulted in 11 arrests — one of them an 11-year-old boy driving a getaway car after a carjacking and a number of burglaries and robberies, some involving guns. A similar rampage happened in October with different teens arrested.
Why it’s happening is unclear. San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia has blamed Santa Clara County policies that discourage incarcerating juveniles unless they present a public danger.
Probation Chief Laura Garnette says the county policies, which we’ve supported, are based on evidence that juvenile incarceration is the single greatest predictor of adult crime. Kids with still-forming brains don’t get better in lockups. But of all juveniles brought in for booking, 88 percent are held because of public safety concerns. It’s not a revolving door.
After talks with Garcia, Garnette’s office is crunching data to test whether county leniency could be part of the problem. She doesn’t think so. Garcia still isn’t sure, but both feel good about working together.
Meanwhile, kudos to Oakland, East Palo Alto and other cities that are catching up on community policing to bring crime down. We’re confident that with more officers coming on board in San Jose, it will get back on track.
Los Angeles Times on California needing to ensure money aimed at low-income students actually gets to them:
In the budget he released last week, Gov. Jerry Brown called for fully funding the Local Control Funding Formula, his landmark 2013 overhaul of education financing that was designed to direct substantial amounts of extra money to schools with high numbers of low-income students. More money has been going to the formula each year, and it’s great that now — two years sooner than expected — the governor wants to add $3 billion to the amount.
But the remaining challenge is to ensure that all that money goes to the students who need it most, and in ways that help narrow achievement gaps.
As clever as the funding formula is, it won’t be a success until the state puts some strings on it, rather than handing it out as a freebie for school districts.
Roll back several years to the recession we’d all like to forget. Brown cannily used the new funds that voters approved when they passed Proposition 30 for schools to revamp education funding. This would have been politically treacherous in earlier years because there would have been obvious winners and losers; some schools would have had to give up money so that others could have more. During the recession, though, most schools already had been losing money, and with the new tax money, they were all about to get more.
Brown’s clever idea was that in a year when everyone was getting a bump, it would be easier to give still more to schools with heavier proportions of low-income students or students in foster care or still struggling to learn English
This replaced a system that had funded schools at different levels based on — well, there were very few in the state who understood the complex formulas. Sometimes it was a matter of whether the school district was in a largely agricultural area back when Proposition 13 passed in 1978. Yes, it was that strange and ridiculously complicated. Brown’s new formula brought simplicity, clarity and equity to school funding.
The problem is that in his mission to give more authority to local districts, Brown placed few restrictions on how the money was to be spent and required no real accountability for ensuring that it was accomplishing its goals. The state laid down only one overriding rule: The money had to be used for the benefit of the students who bring in the extra funding.
That sounds sensible enough. But what exactly does it mean? Not that the state needs to or should lay down a complex set of rules that stifle local creativity, but at least there should have been some guidelines, such as: no using the money to fund unnecessary raises and growing retirement packages for employees. There should be some evidence that the expenditures are not being spent on business as usual, but will mainly benefit disadvantaged students. Already, a couple of lawsuits have been brought against school districts, including Los Angeles Unified, claiming that money was misspent under the terms of the law. The district settled.
So far, there’s little evidence that the extra funding has made a difference for low-income students. Achievement gaps between white students and their black and Latino counterparts haven’t narrowed significantly statewide. Still, change takes time.
Strangely, for all its loosey-goosey approach, what the funding law does require are extensive plans from each school district about its educational plans, which has largely resulted in long, opaque documents that generally are seen by nobody but the county-level bureaucrats who are required to review them. The process is complex and a waste of time and money.
Some school districts have conscientiously ensured that the money goes to programs to benefit low-income students and those still learning English. Others haven’t.
It’s good to see Brown budgeting more money for students who have long attended schools with less experienced teachers and fewer course choices than their more affluent counterparts. And we don’t mean to suggest that the state should impose a rigid list of items on which school districts can and cannot spend the money. There might even be a few cases in which using some of the money for, say, teacher raises makes sense — but only for school districts than can show they can’t hire or retain enough teachers because their pay scale isn’t competitive enough to attract candidates.
Brown’s educational legacy should consist not just of extra funding for schools, but extra funding that is used wisely and on the students for whom it was meant. Unfortunately, it seems that any changes will depend on the next governor.
Ventura County Star on wildfires, mudflows revealing response flaws:
Getting people out of harm’s way when disaster looms includes two essential elements: adequate communication and warning by authorities; and the heeding of those warnings by residents.
Last month’s wildfire affecting Ventura and Santa Barbara counties and last Tuesday’s mudflows in Montecito put both to the test, revealing the need for continued improvement in emergency response among government and residents alike in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. It’s encouraging to us, however, that authorities already have made changes, and two state legislators have stepped up to pledge further action.
At issue in the wildfire, which killed two people and destroyed more than 1,000 structures in the two counties, is whether Spanish-speaking residents received warnings properly and quickly enough.
Officials posted warnings on their readyventuracounty.org website in English after the fire broke out Dec. 4 near Santa Paula. But to get the information in Spanish, you had to scroll to the bottom and use a less-than-accurate automatic translator, advocates said.
There also was a lag in providing Spanish information about a boil-water order in Ventura. The city issued the warning in English on its website and Facebook with a message in Spanish saying, “Make sure you understand this or have someone explain it to you.”
Such a “people can figure it out” attitude clearly is not acceptable in matters of life and death, especially in a county where nearly 30 percent of residents are native Spanish speakers. Yes, everyone should learn to speak English here, but in the meantime, anything that enhances communication and understanding during a time of crisis must be embraced.
To their credit, officials realized the shortcomings and fixed them within a day. And last Monday, with the threat of flash flooding and debris flows facing the burn areas, alerts went out in both English and Spanish.
Still, such practices need to be mandatory, not discretionary. To that end, state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson and Assemblywoman Monique Limón announced plans last week for several bills. One would require emergency communications to be made in the second-most-spoken language in a county as well as in English, a reasonable mandate we hope the Legislature approves promptly.
More problematic is a solution to what happened in Montecito, where mudflows killed at least 15 people and destroyed 100 homes. Many had received warnings but decided to stay, with some discounting the threat after receiving similar evacuation notices during the fire.
The hardest-hit neighborhood was well outside the burn area and only under a voluntary evacuation notice Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reported. Yet some in the mandatory area also refused to leave.
With experts conceding mudslide prediction is an inexact science, the only solution may be to always err on the side of caution.