Tag: california politics

California Tenants Take Rent Control Fight to the Ballot Box

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LOS ANGELES — From pulpits across Los Angeles, Pastor Kelvin Sauls has spent the past few months delivering sermons on the spiritual benefits of fasting. The food in the sermon is rent, and landlords need less of it. “My role is to bring a moral perspective to what we are dealing with around the housing crisis,” Pastor Sauls explained.

In addition to a Sunday lesson, this is an Election Day pitch. Pastor Sauls is part of the campaign for Proposition 10, a ballot initiative that would loosen state restraints on local rent control laws. The effort has stoked a battle that has already consumed close to $60 million in political spending, a sizable figure even in a state known for heavily funded campaigns.

Depending on which side is talking, Proposition 10 is either a much-needed tool to help cities solve a housing crisis or a radically misguided idea that will only make things worse. Specifically, it would repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which prevents cities from applying rent control laws to single-family homes and apartments built after 1995.

The initiative drive builds on the growing momentum of local efforts to expand tenant protections. “In the midst of the worst housing and homeless crisis that our country has ever seen, how does a bill that restricts local government’s ability to address it go untouched?” asked Damien Goodmon, director of the Yes on 10 campaign, which is primarily funded by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Los Angeles.

Proposition 10 has won prominent endorsements from backers including the California Democratic Party and The Los Angeles Times. But opponents have also amassed editorials and broad support, mainly from a coalition of construction unions, nonprofit housing developers and local chambers of commerce.

Among those fighting the initiative is a relatively recent class of landlords — private equity firms like Blackstone Group, which accumulated a vast residential real estate portfolio after the housing market collapse a decade ago. Landlords warn that repealing the Costa-Hawkins law would create deep uncertainty among developers, making California’s housing shortage worse by discouraging construction.

“This is a serious problem, but the solution to that problem should not land solely on the rental housing industry,” said Tom Bannon, president of the California Apartment Association, a landlords’ group.

The California fight reflects a renters’ rights movement that is bubbling up in churches and community centers across the country, a semi-coordinated stand of low-income tenants against the gentrifying American city. Last month in the Roxbury section of Boston, about 300 people gathered for an afternoon assembly on how to blunt evictions and economic displacement. The event offered free child care and had organizers speaking English, Spanish and Cantonese.

California Death penalty repeal dead: Prop. 34

(11-07) 05:09 PST SACRAMENTO — Proposition 34, an initiative to repeal California’s seldom-used but politically potent death penalty law, looked dead with nearly 95 percent of the votes counted Wednesday. The measure would reduce the maximum sentence for capital murder to life in prison without the possibility of parole and would apply retroactively to the more than 720 condemned inmates on the nation’s largest death row. It was the first statewide vote on the issue since 1978, when a 71 percent majority approved expansion of a death penalty law that legislators had passed the previous year over Gov. Jerry Brown‘s veto. That campaign focused on whether murderers deserved to be executed. The Prop. 34 campaign, by contrast, stressed the financial costs of the state’s death penalty – $184 million a year, according to one study – and the structural paralysis of its system. Since executions resumed in the state in 1992, only 13 inmates have been put to death. Executions have been on hold in California since 2006, when a federal judge ordered the state to improve staff training and procedures for lethal injections. The injunction has granted a reprieve to more than a dozen prisoners who have no further appeals. Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/Death-penalty-repeal-dead-4014666.php#ixzz2BY8ZH0V3

Prop. 36: ‘Three strikes’ changes approved

California voters overwhelmingly approved changes to the state’s tough “three strikes” law on Tuesday, ending a practice in which prosecutors could seek 25-years-to-life sentences for defendants even if their latest offense – their third strike – was neither serious nor violent. The law, approved by state voters in 2004, aimed to lock up career criminals like Richard Allen Davis, who a year earlier had kidnapped and murdered 12-year-old Polly Klaas of Petaluma after an earlier string of assaults, robberies and abductions. But the law came under criticism when lesser offenders – a man who stole a truck and two bikes at Stanford, for instance, and another who stole a pepperoni pizza in Southern California – got 25-years-to-life sentences. The change in the law will allow an estimated 2,800 third-strike inmates currently in prison to petition the courts for a reduced sentence, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, and prevent an untold number of people from being charged with a third strike in the future. Proponents said Prop. 36 restored voters’ original intent: to lock up the worst serial criminals. San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, a co-chair of the Prop. 36 campaign, said the measure’s passage would not only save money and allow nonviolent offenders to avoid spending the rest of their lives in prison, but also change the conversation in California.

With its passage, voters sent “a strong message to policymakers about what is considered acceptable to maintain public safety,” he said.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/Prop-36-Three-strikes-changes-approved-4014677.php#ixzz2BY56W3G2