tv This Week in Northern California PBS July 16, 2010 7:00pm-7:30pm PST
closed captioning of this program is made possible by the fireman's fund foundation. >> belva: this week will gop gubernatorial candidate meg whitman give millions to the state's republican party? nobody wins in oakland as 80 police officers are laid off after negotiations between the union and city break down. and california's public education system falls further behind with a shorter school year. and the controversial hunters point shipyard development wins key approval from the san francisco board of supervisors. also, state supreme court chief justice ronald george's surprise announcement of his retirement. justice ronald george's surprise announcement of his retirement. coming up next. captioning by vitac, underwritten by fireman's fund
♪ >> belva: good evening. i'm belva davis, and welcome to "this week in northern california." after our two-week hiatus. join meg tonight on our news panel, john wildermuth, reporter for the "san francisco chronicle," on the controversy over development at hunters point shipyard. louis freedberg, senior reporter and adviser for california watch on the state's shrinking school year. and robert gammon, associate editor with the "east bay express" on cuts in the oakland police department. and starting with carla marinucci, political reporter for the "san francisco chronicle." so carla, tell us about the reports that meg whitman, the
candidate, may be thinking about making a substantial gift to the gop. >> yeah, belva, we found out this week at the "chronicle" we got a hold of a republican party report. we talked to many republicans in the party who confirmed that meg whitman is going to be making a very big infusion of money. she's a billionaire. she's already spent about $100 million on this race. and that she's not writing a 30 million check. we've got to say that. this is over a long period of time, and this is a very ambitious plan. we're talking about hiring people for the party, get out the vote, registration issues. the republicans want to register 500,000 -- republican party, 500,000 new voters in california. this is an ambitious plan that not only hopes to help the gubernatorial candidate here but helps the entire down ticket republican agenda. and democrats have got to be a little worried about this. this is i think just one more
thing. we've seen evidence of the fact that meg whitman as a candidate has the kind of money that we've certainly never seen in california and maybe not in the united states. when you're talking about stories that came out this week. for instance, about her hiring -- >> belva: let's just get this on the record, though. >> yes. >> belva: her campaign has denied what part of what you're saying? >> her campaign has denied that she's going to write a $30 million check specifically. but we know that's not what she's going to do. it's going to be over a period of time. and meg whitman has made a very big investment. she's got websites. she's got the kind of messaging out there, sending her plans out to 500,000 voters, websites in three different languages, and to a myriad of different kinds of voters. this is something we just haven't seen in california before. >> but carla, aren't there campaign finance laws or limits on this? can anybody just write a check
for $30 million over whatever period of time they want to do it? >> this is what i think this campaign shows. if you're a contributor, there are limits to what you can give to meg whitman for governor. but if you're meg whitman or any other wealthy candidate, for that matter, no. you can spend. >> certainly the argument and the supreme court has said, hey, you can spend whatever you want of your money to get yourself elected. which is why both parties look around for guys that can finance their own campaigns. >> that's right. we're seeing it with carly fiorina also on the republican side. but certainly not to this level. and i think it's going to be an unprecedented campaign -- >> there's a story today about her position on immigration, that she's saying she's very much like jerry brown in terms of the arizona law. how is that going to affect her with her conservative base this fall? >> you know, i think this is another place we're seeing some interesting issues with meg whitman. prior to the june primary meg whitman was saying she was tough as nails on illegal immigration, which is a very important issue to that conservative republican base. she was talking about not
allowing undocumented students to go to california universities. just a number of different issues. this week she wrote an op-ed piece in a spanish-language paper saying she is really virtually undistinguishable from jerry brown on the issue of illegal immigration. jerry brown, who's kind of like satan to the republican base. that alarmed some of them. >> it alarmed jerry brown. >> it alarmed jerry brown. he said no, she's not like me on a lot of different issues. jerry brown says he's for a path to legalization. the issue, i think you brought up, is whitman made a lot -- she had a very contentious primary and she had to spend a lot of money against steve poizner. she went very hard to the right. and now she is to come back to the center. she's looking for latino voters. that's part of this outreach we're talking about. and she's made gains with them as well. >> belva: okay. we've had very little opportunity to talk about jerry brown. anything from -- >> well, part of the i think issue and the challenge here, jerry brown has no plans up on his website. we've got to say that.
whitman has detailed a lot of things, a lot of proposals. look at jerry brown's website. and a lot of democrats, a lot of labor people are getting very alarmed. there's nothing there in terms of details. some environmental and green jobs but they say a lot more is needed. >> belva: in about ten seconds, the nurses were at her home. today or yesterday? >> that was yesterday. 1,100 nurses in atherton. she has sort of thrown down the gauntlet to the california nurses association. this is going to be a battle all the way through. the nurses association took on arnold schwarzenegger. and this is all about labor. and meg whitman has made it an issue too. >> you mentioned labor, and that's where we're going next because we're going to be talking to bob over here, bob gammon, about the situation that fell apart where the city of oakland was trying to make a deal with the oakland police officers and that did not work. so now we're faced with the huge layoff or firing of these officers? >> they've been laid off. there's 80 police officers that have been laid off. they're already out of work. they could be hired back if the
city were to reach an agreement with the police officers union sometime in the next few months. it's not clear whether that's going to happen or not. at this point the police officers union has been very -- taken a very hard-line stance on this. so it may not happen. >> belva: so how did they get to this point? i mean, is there a person who's at fault or an entity that's at fault? >> no. well, there's two things going on here. one is the recession. oakland's lost nearly $100 million in revenues in the last few years because tax receipts are down in a big way. and the other is prior to the recession the oakland city council approved some very generous wage and benefit packages. and those packages now are bankrupting the city when it doesn't have the receipts to be able to pay for them. so earlier this year the city council and the mayor went to the police union and said listen, we would like you to start paying toward your pension because every other city employee in the city does it. you're the only union that doesn't do it. and the union said -- eventually
said no, we're not going to do that, unless you guarantee us no layoffs for three years. the city said we can't do that because next year's deficit is going to be worse than this year's deficit. >> so bob, i don't understand. why didn't they approve a one-year guarantee? rather than lay off 80 officers who are sorely needed in oakland. does the union take too hard of a line, and are they not willing to give up enough on the pensions? in other words, this money's going to folks who aren't even on the force anymore, and meanwhile, these officers are getting laid off. >> from the union's perspective, they feel like the city's going to keep coming to them year after year for more concessions. last year the police union decided to give up pay raises. they didn't actually take a pay cut like every other city union did, but they gave up pay raises last year. and they saw the writing on the wall for next year. so they were concerned. so they asked for this three-year no layoff guarantee. >> bob, isn't this like a really watershed moment, not only for oakland but for all cities in california? because this is really where the
city said enough is enough. >> it really -- >> to the police force. and it's interesting it happened in oakland. but it didn't work for the police in this case. >> it really was surprising. i mean, over the years the city council has had a reputation just for saying yes to everything that the city employee unions have asked them for. so it was surprising that a majority of the council stood up and said no, we can't do this anymore, the writing's on the wall, there's just not enough money to pay for what you're asking for. >> but when you saw all the headlines about 80 policemen laid off, you're going to see that same headline come january, won't you? >> it could be worse in january because the city is depending now on tax measures to come through in november. and what they were hoping is they would reach an greemt with the police union, then they'd have a united front. the city council, the mayor, all the mayoral candidates are really behind it as well. and the police union saying listen, we've made sacrifices, can you taxpayers help us out with new tax measures? but now if you're a taxpayer in oakland and you've been through the recession, you've seen your own budget get hurt and you've had less money and you're having
to pay out more money, why would you raise taxes to pay for salaries and pensions? >> but oakland has a very popular police chief right now. he has some innovative ideas. how is he responding and is it in any way supportive of the union's position? >> he's tried to take a middle ground between the city council and the police union. and he's just trying at this point to figure out how do i best serve oakland with fewer officers. so he's decided this week that he's going to not respond to reports of crimes after they've already happened. if you've had a burglary in your house, you need to go online and fill out a police report. as opposed to having a police officer come to your house. >> for all those homeowners in oakland that's devastating. community policing is gone too? >> community policing had to go because under a previous tax measure in oakland that required specific staffing levels. so once the city decided to lay off one police officer, it had to stop collecting that tax
measure. so now there's no community policing in oakland. they're hoping to get a fix on that tax measure passed in november, which would allow them to go below the minimum staffing and still be able to collect the tax. >> well, money was at the bottom of all of this. just who were the leaders in the oakland city government? >> councilman ignacio de la fuente was the biggest leader in oakland city government in terms of standing up to the police union. he really took the toughest stand all along. and this week he's taken some heat for it because it's a controversial issue. >> belva: okay. money's moving police officers out of the line of duty there. and i think in your story, louis, it's not policemen but it's teachers because there's a crisis that is going to shorten the school year, right? >> well, in this case what's happened is that many districts around the state, in fact, at
california watch we did a survey of the top -- the largest 30 districts in the state, school districts, and we found that 16 out of the 30 districts are shortening the school year during the coming year. for a few days, most up to five days. a full week of the school year. the reason they're doing this is the teachers are being given furlough days. and i think a lot of people don't realize they're not getting paid on those days. so it's actually a way for districts to get a pretty big savings by trimming the school year. but the problem is a lot of people, including president obama, has made a big deal about this is they feel this is just pushing california in completely the wrong direction, that really what we want is not a shorter school year, we need a longer school year. and longer school days. and shorter summers. it was just a decade ago that california increased the school year to 180 days. it's actually each district decides on their own, but the standard for california is 180 days. and california got up to 180 days, but now we're going back
to 175 days. >> where does this rank ut, louis, in terms of other states? i've got to say, you even have experts in your story saying california is now a basket case when it comes to education because of cuts like this. how bad are we compared to other states? >> we are falling behind, as we are in so many other measures on the educational front. most states, over 30, 35 states, have 180-day school year. others measure by minutes, so it's actually hard to figure out exactly how many days. but we know there's about 12 or 13 other states that still have 175 days. we are now joining the minority of states that offer a shorter year. >> but when you come right down to it, it's all a question of money, right? >> exactly. >> i mean, when the state budget was done last year, one of the things they did was give the schools the option of, you know, saving money by cutting back.
and the budget situation isn't any better this year and isn't likely to be any better. so where does it end? >> we work with new american media. they interviewed school board members around the state. we asked them about how did they make this decision. and this is a really agonizing decision. actually kind of heartbreaking reading these descriptions. monica garcia, who's this school board member in l.a., the biggest school district in the state, said we're reaching a point where we're engaging in education malpractice. you know, they're increasing class size, they're cutting the librarians, and now it's actually cutting to the bone. now somebody said you're cutting into the bone. >>. >> belva: well, that brings us to the point of where do we go next in the courts? there are some lawsuits already. >> well, you've got a bunch of community groups, school districts saying that the school financing system in california is broken. we do have prop 98, which was supposed to guarantee a certain percentage of money, that was going to guarantee a stable
source of funding, but what's happened is the california budget kupets and down, the general fund goes up and down, we've had all these crises so, the funding for schools goes up and down. so there are now two lawsuits that say the state is violating the constitutional mandate that we provide a quality education for every student. >> isn't a problem with the lawsuits is in low income areas some of the schools are really in bad shape so kids are getting awn equal education? that happens in big cities like san francisco -- >> that is true. but what we saw in this reducing the school year, it's really across the board. you've got some districts where they have, you know, kids from, you know, middle-class backgrounds who are also cutting the school year. so really it's not just inner city school districts who are affected by this. >> but to have a ruling that you need to provide more money, you've got to finds it somewhere. >> well -- >> belva: has a crisis been
declared yet? has somebody come out and just said california schools are definitely -- >> the state board of education just yesterday declared an emergency for the 1,000 of the lowest-performing schools. there's a law that says any kid in those schools has a right to transfer to another school, either in their own district or out of the district. this has never happened before in california. >> well, the state is definitely in trouble. so we move to something that seemed to have happened that had a positive effect, at least in some stories that we read on your reporting, john. so tell us about the hunters point development out there. >> well, the big news is that on tuesday the board of supervisors on an 8-3 vote agreed to accept the environmental impact report on the project. and it's -- the impact report's been in process for a couple of years. they had -- the meeting went 11
hours, and tons of people talking, but at the end of the day they voted the approval. and that is probably the biggest hurdle left to actually -- >> belva: what is it they voted to do? how big is what they voted to do? >> well, what they essentially voted for is to say we can do this project, a project that is going to put out on the old hunters point shipyard, is going to drop a totally new neighborhood right there, 10,500 homes, better than 24,000 people. retail. a lot of r & d. and again, putting everything out there. over the course of 20 years. and the idea is it will completely remake that southeastern section of the city, which had been neglected for decades. >> you know, john, everybody's talking about jobs these days. what does it mean in terms of jobs and economic activity for the city -- >> well -- >> -- that that was one of the reasons you got this 8-3 vote -- >> well, certainly. actually, one of the things you saw was representatives from just about every union in the
bay area coming up and saying we need this, our members are out 30% unemployment among building trades unions. and this -- you know, not only is it a lot of work. it's a lot of work over a long time. and that's one of the concerns that some of the opponents had, was that the supervisors were being pushed too much by -- >> belva: let's talk about some of the elements in conflict. you have the environmentalists. you have the african-american community that we normally associate with that region. you have a new immigrant population that's moved in out there. and then you have the developers who want to do, you know, luxury things as well as take care of the poor people. >> don't forget the city. >> belva: and the city's investment. the mayor's reputation here. so what -- >> there's a lot of arguments. and what it is now, what's coming up is the board meets the 27th again to look at some of the details of the project, including a bridge over yosemite slough that the environmentalists don't like,
talking possibly about some of the toxic cleanup and very much talking about some of the promises lennar, the developer's made. about providing job training. about making a certain number of these new jobs available to people in the community. and everything else like that. any type of project like this you're going to get people with all sorts of different ways of looking at it. >> john, you mentioned that bridge. isn't that part of having a 49ers stadium there? and how realistic -- >> yeah. bottom line is they required that. the nfl said no bridge, no stadium because that's the only way you can get people from a stadium to the freeway in a certain amount of time. but right now even the biggest stadium backers realize that that's probably not going to happen. but the bridge, they say, is still needed to get people back from the shipyard development to the candlestick point development without having to take a detour through the neighborhoods out there. >> john, i have to ask you, this is a very ambitious plan. all this housing. who's going to pay for this? and who's going to buy the
housing? i mean, in the current economic climate we have, i mean, it's hugely ambitious. >> if the houses were all built tomorrow, you'd have a problem. but again, it's over 20 years. and like any other development, the people who buy the houses pay for the next stage of the development. some of the stuff is going to be done right away. for example, the alice griffith project. >> belva: that's public housing. >> public house, low-income housing out by candlestick. the developer said the first thing they will do is build a whole new project right next to it that one for one everybody who's in that project now will have a new apartment in the other one. so that's going to be the first thing there. and what the city is saying is we're going to make sure that the benefits are frontloaded, that lennar the developer's going to have to put up the money for these before they get to dot stuff that's going to make them a lot of money. >> you mentioned people living there. is the cleanup done? is it to a level where people can actually live there and not worry about what's going on? >> the cleanup is in process. parts of it aren't done.
but a couple of the parcels are ready to be turned over to the city for development next year. the argument they make is that this will be cleaned up to the same level that mission bay is and emeryville was. >> belva: well, jam-packed stories tonight with lots of information. so thanks to all of you for joining me here tonight. well, in a moment we'll hear from scott schafer of kqed public radio about the news on chief justice ronald george's retirement. ♪ >> belva: well, the announcement
that chief justice ronald george will retire in january took most by surprise. and here to tell us about his legacy and the future of the court, scott shafer, host of "california report" on kqed public radio. welcome, scott. >> thanks, belva. >> belva: so why was this announcement such a surprise? >> well, because there was every indication that ronald george was going to run again and stand for a reconfirmation for another 12-year term. he had indicated that in the past. there weren't any big problems on the court that he was trying to get away from. some of the budget issues seemed to be settled. and so it was a big surprise. there was no big campaign to oust him. so everyone just kind of assumed. and he's 70 years old, which for many people would seem like retirement age. but as judges go, it's really not that old. and so all of his colleagues were shocked to learn that he was deciding not to run again and they learned on the same day we did, which was this wednesday. >> belva: well, how much do you think politics played in this decision? he was the key judge in the
proposition 8 decision. and that could have been some trouble for him coming up for reconfirmation. >> well there, were two real gay marriage rulings, or three essentially, but the second one where gay marriage was legalized in california in 2008, that opened the door for a few months. he wrote that 4-3 ruling. and then he later also wrote the 6-1 ruling which upheld prop 8, which slammed the door closed. so on both sides there were people who thought he was heroic for striking a blow for equality, but then there were people who were also pleased that he stood up for proposition 8 and the will of the voters. but there was no real indication that there was a big campaign against him. so i don't think that played a big role. in terms of the politics, though, he did make it clear that he is quite happy with governor schwarzenegger getting to pick his successor. >> belva: so what were his contributions to the court? he has a reputation from many lawyers that he's been good for the court. >> he has. it's very hard to find people who will say a bad word about ronald george. in terms of -- the chief justice
is also the head of the judicial council, which oversees all the local courts, the trial courts and the appellate courts. and he made a point of making the courts more accessible to the people that they serve. he visited all 58 counties in california to talk to judges and people that worked in the courts. he instituted plain english jury instructions, which were more understandable for juries. he made the web much more accessible. he allowed cameras in the courtroom. he did things that really opened up the courtroom and increased transparency and efficiency. >> belva: just changing the jury rules, how long you had to come and wait around to be called or not called. >> exactly. >> belva: he had a clever way of doing that. i guess you just called in. >> you just have to -- yeah. i think you have to check by phone. but if you actually make your way into a courtroom one day and you're not called, you're free. so it just made it more easy for people to serve. >> belva: what about the rest of the court? will this court hold together? i mean, their decisions have been -- there's not been a lot of rancor that we know about. >> and the chief gets a lot of credit for, that for that civility and collegiality.
the other six justices, five of them have been appointed by republican governors. carlos moreno the only democrat, appointed by gray davis. and so now there's a question of who will succeed ronald george. and the governor can go one of two ways. he can elevate one of the other six justices, and there's been talk about perhaps ming chin or carol corrigan. particularly carol corrigan because she was appointed to the court by arnold schwarzenegger. or he could decide he's going foik someone else from outside the court to appoint as chief justice. and there are some district court judges who have come up and some outside the box names like tom campbell or clark kelso, who is a law professor at mcgeorge up at sacramento and the current receiver of the prison health care system in california. so the governor gets to make that pick. it's a big deal for him, and it could be a big part of his legacy. and then the voters will have the final say if they can get it done in time in november. >> belva: the new appointee would have to stand for confirmation.
>> yes. >> belva: thank you so much. >> you're welcome. >> belva: that's it for tonight. visit kqed.org/thisweek to view complete episodes and segments. subscribe to our newsletter and podcast. and share your thoughts about the show and our stories. i'm belva davis. see you next week. good night. i inherited my father's '69 norton commando.
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