Better jails?

Feb 19, 2020


State takes a first step toward improving its failing county jails


Sac Bee's JASON POHL/RYAN GABRIELSON: "California’s county jails would face greater scrutiny and potentially tougher consequences for poor conditions inside their cells under a series of proposed changes unveiled by a state oversight agency last week."


"Specifically, the Board of State and Community Corrections plans to publicize details about uncorrected violations in jails and summon elected county sheriffs who delay reforms or rebuff the oversight agency."


"The changes are in response to a yearlong investigation by McClatchy and ProPublica that exposed dangerous conditions in county jails and lagging enforcement of the state’s standards. In his state of the state speech last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom demanded improved jail oversight and transparency from the board, which oversees local lockups."

Special education in California in need of overhaul, researchers say 


From EdSource's CAROLYN JONES: "Special education in California should be overhauled to focus on the individual needs of students, with better training for teachers, more streamlined services and improved screening for the youngest children, according to a compilation of reports released today."


"Those were some of the recommendations proposed in “Special Education: Organizing Schools to Serve Students with Disabilities in California,” a package of 13 reports and a summary produced by Policy Analysis for California Education, a nonpartisan research and policy organization led by faculty from UC Berkeley, UCLA, University of Southern California and Stanford University."


“By almost every indicator you look at, special education in California is in dire need of improvement,” said Heather Hough, PACE’s executive director. “We need to rethink the way we organize schools, so students with disabilities are at the center and not at the fringes.”


Coronavirus testing to begin at lab in SF


The Chronicle's ERIN ALLDAY: "Public health authorities plan to start widespread surveillance for the new coronavirus in five U.S. cities, including San Francisco, by tapping into an existing network of labs that already test for influenza and other common viruses."


"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not say when the labs would begin testing for the new virus, which causes a respiratory illness called COVID-19 that has sickened more than 67,000 people worldwide. So far, 15 cases have been reported in the United States, including eight in California."


"The CDC said Friday that the risk of infection from the new virus remains low for the general public. But infectious disease experts said it makes sense to begin more large-scale surveillance for the virus soon, both to track down individual cases that may be missed by other screening efforts, and to identify potential clusters of cases right away."


READ MORE related to Coronavirus: Coronavirus fears loom amid SF's cruise ship boom -- The Chronicle's SHWANIKA NARAYAN


Porn video shot in California public library sparks public outcry


Sac Bee's DON SWEENEY: "An online porn video partly shot inside an open public library in Santa Monica, California, has some residents seeing red, KNBC reports."


"God forbid, a child walked in the library and walked right in on the middle of it. That’s my biggest concern,” said Janet McLaughlin, KCBS reported. “Children don’t need to be exposed to this. If you want to do porn, stick to the hotels.”


The video, initially posted to PornHub, reportedly features 19-year-old adult film actress Ellie Eilish exposing herself as she walks around outside the Ocean Park branch library, The Santa Monica Daily Press reported."


Greeted in LA by jeers and cheers, Trump slams city leaders


LA Times's COLLEEN SHALBY: "Two weeks before California’s primary election, Donald Trump landed in the blue state Tuesday for the fourth time in his presidency to meet with organizers of the 2028 Olympic Games before attending a fundraising dinner in Beverly Hills."


"He used the occasion to again slam the city’s political leadership for failing to slow the homelessness epidemic."


"During a briefing on preparations for the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, the president said that if L.A. doesn’t “clean it up fast,” he will intervene."


New penalty, extended April deadline drives increase in California health insurance sign-ups


Sac Bee's SOPHIA BOLLAG: "New numbers released Tuesday show many more Californians signed up for health insurance this year than last year, even as state officials are extending the deadline for people to enroll in coverage."


"California’s marketplace saw a 41 percent jump in new sign-ups from last year, from nearly 300,000 to more than 418,000. In total, over 1.5 million people signed up for or renewed insurance plans through the marketplace, known as Covered California."


"State officials and advocacy groups attribute the jump in new enrollments to new state policies aimed at lowering insurance costs for some Californians and fining others who opt not to buy coverage."


Critics ask why Newsom hasn't fought president's water moves


Sac Bee's KURTIS ALEXANDER: "During President Trump’s visit to California this week, the commander in chief who campaigned on a pledge of shipping more water to Central Valley farms plans to stop in Bakersfield to boast about a promise kept."


"His administration has succeeded in rolling back protections for fish in California, opening the door to more pumping from rivers and streams, and more irrigation deliveries for the state’s vast agricultural economy."


"The endeavor is no surprise for a president who has been supportive of industry and hopes to rally rural voters behind his re-election bid. But what confounds some who are worried that Trump’s water plan could undermine the environment is how little the state has done to stop Washington."


Sanders stands alone at the top in California as Bloomberg rises, new poll says


Sac Bee's BRYAN ANDERSON: "Bernie Sanders stands alone at the top of the pack in California, according to a new poll released Tuesday afternoon by the Public Policy Institute of California."


"Sanders holds his widest lead to date among the 2020 Democratic presidential field since PPIC began polling on the state of the race in California in July 2019."


"The polls shows him with 32 percent support from likely March 3 Democratic primary voters. He is followed distantly by Joe Biden at 14 percent, Elizabeth Warren at 13 percent and Michael Bloomberg and Pete Buttigieg at 12 percent."


Bloomberg adviser makes case for his candidate in California


Sac Bee's AMY CHANCE/BRYAN ANDERSON: "He worked his way to the top ranks of the Huffington Post and Bloomberg Opinion after reporting for the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, HuffPost and Talk magazine. He also wrote “TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald.”


"Tim O’Brien hasn’t had the most conventional pathway into national politics."


"Now, with California’s March 3 primary quickly approaching, O’Brien is working as senior adviser for Michael Bloomberg. He helps oversee policy, strategy and messaging. He helps secure endorsements from high-profile lawmakers, prepares Bloomberg for future debate appearances and is working to get former New York City mayor a win in the most delegate-rich state in the nation."


SF Mayor Breed regrets letting Nuru friendship influence her judgement


The Chronicle's DOMINIC FRACASSA: "As Mayor London Breed braces for the potential fallout from her disclosure last week that she accepted $5,600 in gifts from ex-Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, she admitted to a lapse in judgment that allowed her personal life to bleed into her professional one."


"Breed laid out what happened in an online post Friday, but her attempt at transparency still left many questions unanswered."


"On Tuesday, Breed remained tight-lipped when pressed for details in an interview about why Nuru, a prominent department head, paid for a mechanic to repair Breed’s broken-down car and for a rental car last year."


READ MORE related to Nuru Corruption Probe: Mayor Breed dated Nuru years ago, discloses 'gift' from him -- The Chronicle's DOMINIC FRACASSA


How Jackey Lacey's and George Gascon's time in office shapes the LA County DA's race


LA Times's JAMES QUEALLY: "Jackie Lacey and George Gascón spent more than three decades each working for and eventually running some of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies."


"Yet, their visions to lead the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office couldn’t be more different."


"Lacey, the two-term incumbent who oversees the office she’s worked in since the late 1980s, has long tried to improve treatment for mentally ill defendants and tried to position herself as a reformer on other issues. But her reputation is that of a punishment-first prosecutor. While she’s beloved by the law enforcement community, Lacey’s tenure has been marked by a perceived hesitance to charge powerful figures and police officers who use deadly force, earning her the scorn of local activist groups."


Weinstein attorney scolded for writing op-ed on eve of jury deliberations


LA Times's LAURA NEWBERRY: "Harvey Weinstein’s lead defense attorney was lambasted on Tuesday by a prosecutor for writing an op-ed that directly addressed the jury ahead of trial deliberations, which were set to begin that morning."


"The piece, penned by attorney Donna Rotunno and published in Newsweek on Sunday, implored the jury “to do what they know is right and was expected of them from the moment they were called upon to serve their civic duty in a court of law."


"The mocking of Mr. Weinstein’s walker, the unflattering courtroom-artist sketches of his body, the countless critical op-eds and biased stories, and the convenient timing of the politically-motivated charges in Los Angeles were all designed to pre-determine his guilt,” Rotunno wrote."


Drone pilot suspected of dumping fliers in Sacramento fit to face trial, judge says


Sac Bee's DARRELL SMITH: "Tracy Mapes, the drone pilot suspected of dumping swastika-marked leaflets onto a Sacramento State University event and onto Golden 1 Center last year, was found competent to stand trial, a Sacramento judge ruled Tuesday."


"Mapes, 56, of North Highlands faces misdemeanor charges connected to the drone flight and was present for the morning hearing before Sacramento Superior Court Judge Jennifer Rockwell, Superior Court officials said Tuesday. Mapes will return to Sacramento Superior Court on April 7 for further proceedings in the matter."


"People attending the farm-to-fork event “Bites on the Bridge” on the Guy West Bridge in May 2019 were the target of handbills bearing swastikas that declared the press as “the enemy” and urged a stop to the “TV whore takeover."


Sacramento approves two dozen homeless youth shelters 


Sac Bee's THERESA CLIFT: "A facility with two dozen cabin-style shelters and services for homeless young people will open next month in north Sacramento, the City Council approved Tuesday."


"The temporary development, called Emergency Bridge Housing at Grove Avenue, will be located at a vacant lot next to St. Paul Church of God In Christ, near the corner of Las Palmas and Grove avenues."


"The cabins will house 48 “transitional age youth,” ages 18 to 24, and also provide them with job training, financial literacy, rehousing services and mental health services as needed."


Prosecution plays jailhouse phone calls of Nia Wilson murder defendant


The Chronicle's MEGAN CASSIDY: "Jurors in the Nia Wilson murder trial on Tuesday heard another side of defendant John Lee Cowell: a seemingly lucid, cheerful nephew catching up with his aunt and asking for small favors."


"This version, played via audio recordings from jailhouse phone calls, stood in stark contrast to the confused and at times belligerent man jurors saw tossed from the courtroom last week. In the recordings, Cowell asks his aunt, Saundra Ferriera, to buy him books and specific foods from the jail canteen, and the two make small talk about their family and her car."


"Everything’s looking really good,” Cowell said in a call last month, when he and Ferriera briefly discussed his case. “I think I’m headed on the right path."


$3.25 to ride Muni? Not so fast, SF supervisors say


The Chronicle's RACHEL SWAN: "San Francisco transit officials are weighing whether to raise Muni fares by a quarter next year, to $3.25. The hike, though small, could be significant: Muni is already one of the most expensive transit systems in the country."


"Staff at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency say they need the additional fare revenue to pay for operating expenses, and that the increases would keep pace with inflation. The agency draws at least $200 million a year from fares, and it expects to reap $14 million more in 2021 if fares are increased on all transit vehicles. If SFMTA doesn’t get that money, it may have to slow down hiring of bus and train operators — a dire need as Muni struggles to serve 720,000 weekday riders."


"That’s a conundrum we have,” Chief Financial Officer Leo Levenson told the Board of Directors during its meeting on Tuesday afternoon."


Uber shuts downtown LA office, laying off about 80


LA Times's JOHANA BHUIYAN: "Uber has closed a customer support office in downtown Los Angeles, laying off about 80 employees, The Times has learned."


"Without advance notice, staffers were informed Thursday their jobs would be shifted to a large customer support office the company maintains in Manila, according to sources who asked to remain anonymous for fear of losing severance."


"In a recording The Times obtained, Uber manager Ruffin Chevaleau acknowledged that the meeting was called on short notice before delivering the news."


SF's Chinatown community fears incoming restaurant could bring gentrification


The Chronicle's JANELLE BITKER: "Community leaders in San Francisco’s Chinatown are worried about a pattern emerging in their neighborhood: Their huge banquet hall restaurants keep closing, only to reopen as upscale establishments primarily serving people who don’t live in the area."


"For decades, Chinatown had five thriving banquet restaurants that didn’t just serve food but also functioned as community centers: Empress of China, Far East Cafe, Four Seas Restaurant, Gold Mountain Restaurant and New Asia Restaurant. Only Far East and New Asia are left."


"Michelin-starred restaurant Mister Jiu’s replaced Four Seas in 2016. The China Live complex, which includes a $225 tasting menu from the upstairs restaurant Eight Tables, replaced Gold Mountain one year later. This spring, Empress by Boon is preparing to open in the space Empress of China vacated in 2014. Chef-owner Ho Chee Boon, who was born in Malaysia and has worked at restaurants in Singapore, Hong Kong, London and New York, is best known as the former executive chef at the international high-end Cantonese restaurant chain Hakkasan."


Three men murdered in Perris cemetry could be related to Mexican drug cartels


LA Times's JACLYN COSGROVE: "The bodies of three men killed in a Perris cemetery were found Monday morning near the grave of a man killed in Mexico in December, prompting investigators to look into whether the killings are connected."


"Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said in a news conference Tuesday that the killing of the three Perris residents — Jaime Covarrubias Espindola, 50; Jose Maria Aguilar-Espejel, 38; and Rodrigo Aguilar-Espejel, 28 — was possibly linked to cartel violence."


"I mean, three people killed at the same time, that was a message for something, whether it was for someone else, or whether it was to them,” Bianco said."


Barr reportedly muling resignation over Trump tweets


AP: "Atty. Gen. William Barr has told people close to him he’s considering quitting his post after President Trump wouldn’t heed his warning to stop tweeting about Justice Department cases, an administration official told the Associated Press."


"The revelation came days after Barr took a public swipe at the president, saying in a television interview that Trump’s tweets about Justice Department cases and staffers make it “impossible” for him to do his job. The next day, Trump ignored Barr’s request and insisted that he has the “legal right” to intervene in criminal cases and sidestep the Justice Department’s historical independence."


"The administration official was not authorized to discuss Barr’s private remarks and requested anonymity."