Community organizations are returning to their 19th century roots

When I needed to donate a box of vegetables recently, I called a nonprofit in my Queens neighborhood in Queens, New York, that organizes low-wage immigrant workers. The organizer, Will Rodriguez, said, “You know, Rinku, we don’t usually do this stuff, but we just had to jump in because the need is so great. People are suffering so much.”

By “this stuff,” he meant mutual aid, in which members of a community work together to meet each other’s urgent needs. Normally, the day laborers and domestic workers who are members of his organization, New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE), work t on direct-action campaigns to fight exploitation and advocate for their rights. But the pandemic has pushed them into organizing mutual aid around food.

They are not alone. In recent months, members of progressive direct-action organizations have developed new systems for checking on their neighbors, dropping off food and medicine, providing protective personal equipment to incarcerated family members, and giving cash to those suddenly unemployed.

Combining mutual aid and direct action might seem like common sense, but in today’s corporatized and professionalized nonprofit world, this model had disappeared almost completely. Community-based nonprofits in the United States today are split into distinct silos, with service provision firmly compartmentalized in one box and direct-action organizing in another.

The roots of this split lie in the increasing professionalization of the sector over half a century, driven by sexism, classism and racism.

Throughout American history, mutual aid societies existed wherever poor, disenfranchised people could be found. During and immediately after slavery, free Black people formed mutual aid societies to provide resources denied them by the white community. The first was the Free African Society of Philadelphia, founded in the 1770s to provide a place to worship and financial resources to members. Similar organizations soon sprung up in New York, New Orleans and Newport, Rhode Island, providing non-denominational spiritual guidance and resources such as banks, schools, burial societies, newspapers, and food. W.E.B. DuBois called these “the first wavering step of a people toward organized social life.”

These organizations threatened the racial status quo. Charleston shut down the Free Dark Men of Color in the 1820s for fear of slave insurrections and Maryland made it a felony to join a mutual aid society in 1842. Despite the crackdowns, thousands more societies formed after the Civil War. Decades later, these self-organized groups would become the infrastructure of the Civil Rights Movement and the inspiration for the Black Panthers, who famously served free breakfasts and health programs alongside their fight against police brutality and exploitation.

European immigrant communities of the 19th and 20th centuries, too, relied on cooperative efforts to learn English, find decent housing, and resist labor abuse. Incorporating a mix of mutual aid, community organizing, and legislative campaigning, the social reformer Jane Addams founded Chicago’s Hull House in 1889, sparking a movement that counted more than 400 “settlement houses” within 20 years.  In the late 1890s, Addams’ training of settlement house volunteers became the basis of early social work college programs.

The settlement houses’ social reform projects, including sanitation reform, women’s suffrage, temperance, legislation against child labor, and labor law, were eventually into the New Deal.  The Social Security Act of 1935 created pensions for the elderly, care for the disabled, a state-run medical insurance program for the poor, and unemployment insurance. But the legislation, reflecting the prevailing racism, excluded domestic and farm workers in a compromise that ensured that Southern Democrats and the agricultural industry would still have access to cheap labor.

Left to fend for themselves, those workers relied on mutual aid even as they organized for change.  Leaders like Mary Church Terrell, Anna Julia Cooper and Mary Jane Patterson founded the Colored Women’s League in 1892 to generate racial uplift through self-help. Thyra J. Edwards, virtually unknown in mainstream social work history, was also a trained journalist. These women made lynching their top priority.

Despite political action among social workers of all races, Saul Alinsky is the white man credited with codifying the social action elements. Starting in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood in the 1930s, Alinsky eventually became the nation’s most famous “community organizer” by starting with local issues to rally people for broader political change.

The Alinsky model featured highly professionalized, well-paid organizers who kept any radical politics to themselves. The IAF also had a distinctly male culture. Alinsky expected organizers to work around the clock; women, he thought, were too delicate, even if he didn’t publicly discourage them from the work.

Alinsky’s influential “rules” saw services—mostly organized by and provided by women—only as a means to direct action campaigning. By the time the National Association of Social Workers was formed in 1955, providing services via casework and organizing for systemic change had become distinct streams of social work. Philanthropists, too, viewed these functions as separate, driving far more resources to apoliticized service provision than they did to community organizing. When I was learning to organize in the late 1980s, I was consistently told that self-help schemes, lending circles, and cooperative businesses had little to do with “real” organizing.

Today, though, a new generation of activists is erasing that distinction. The pandemic, in particular, has clarified that organizing cannot be divorced from actually helping people. Some activists fear that politicians will try to replace government care with community care, or that mutual aid will absorb all of our energy, leaving nothing for political fights.

But especially in times when the state dramatically fails to deliver what people need, mutual aid is a powerful way, sometimes even the only way, to help people manage daily life while sustaining their spirits in the struggle for systemic change. Mutual aid fuels the audacity to demand more because it reinforces that we are not alone in our suffering.

Rinku Sen is a longtime journalist, racial justice strategist, and former executive director of Race Forward. She is the author of Stir It Up: Lessons in Community Organizing and Advocacy. She wrote this for Zócalo Public Square.

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What it’s like to stand up to a police union: Cecilia Iglesias

I took on police unions before it was in fashion, and I have the battle scars to prove it.

My story is a microcosm of what reformers across the state and country face as they attempt to rein in police unions, which are largely responsible for the systemic police violence making headlines because they protect bad cops from consequences.

As a member of the Santa Ana City Council, I voted in February 2019 against a $25.6 million police pay increase, including retroactive raises and additional money for career officers.

The reason for my vote was simple: The city could not afford it. Even with the county’s highest sales tax rate, the city has a net deficit of around $500 million and a pension liability of about $700 million. The economic carnage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will only exacerbate these fiscal shortfalls.

Last October, I also recommended a civilian police-oversight commission. Weeks earlier, a federal grand jury had indicted Officer Brian Patric Booker for beating up a suspect who was not resisting arrest, then allegedly filing false reports to hide the abuse. This incident followed two wrongful death lawsuits in 2016 against the Santa Ana police that cost taxpayers $6.8 million. That year, city officers also vandalized a marijuana dispensary and bullied the store’s disabled owner before proceeding to eat edibles and play darts.

My constituents repeatedly told me about their concerns, fear and distrust of the police. While high-profile incidents generate attention, my community often complained about a general lack of respect and protracted response times from officers. This poor customer service is fostered by police unions that protect bad officers from complaints.

In response to my actions, the Santa Ana police union waged a high-priced recall election campaign against me funded by nearly $500,000 in union dues. The election cost the city almost $750,000 in unnecessary funds, given that I wasn’t running for council reelection in November. The recall was pure revenge.

Union President Gerry Serrano waged a ruthless smear campaign, calling me “unethical, unprofessional and criminal.” The only thing that’s “criminal” is the nearly $400,000 in pay and benefits that Serrano received from taxpayers in 2019.

Despite my pro-immigration stance, Serrano and his allies claimed that I support President Trump’s anti-immigration policies, including family separations and a border wall. The Democratic Party of Orange County called me a “Latina Trump.” A recall campaign flyer depicted my face next to Trump’s with the headline: “Inglesias = Trump.” Misspelling my last name was the least of what was wrong with that flyer.

Paid canvassers from outside Santa Ana misled residents into signing the recall petition. Almost a third of signatures reviewed by the Orange County Registrar of Voters were deemed invalid. I have signed affidavits from 11 of the 20 original recall sponsors stating they were misled into signing. Yet by February, the registrar confirmed that unions had rounded up enough signatures to force a recall vote.

In a low-turnout, mail-in election in May, I lost to a union puppet by about 2,500 votes. Fewer than 12,000 people voted against me in a city of 332,000 people. My last day on the council was on June 2.

My work continues in my role as education director at the California Policy Center, which informs Californians about the inherent problems associated with public-sector unions. Namely, they have far too much power because they collectively bargain with the elected officials whom they fund and get elected. The fiscal consequences, including higher taxes, government spending, debt and unfunded liabilities, pose a grave threat to ordinary Californians. When it comes to police unions, the ramifications, as we have too often seen, are even more proximate.

I’m also running for mayor of Santa Ana, and I will make this case to voters. Santa Ana residents looking for a truth-teller should consider voting for me on Nov. 3. Residents inside and outside city limits looking to reform police and government unions should study the attacks against me to better prepare for their respective battles. As my experience shows, they should prepare for a tough fight.

Cecilia “Ceci” Iglesias is the education director for the California Policy Center and a former Santa Ana councilwoman.

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You can’t cancel American history: Gloria Romero

As an East Los Angeles Latina with a long history of police reform advocacy, I was horrified to see the brutal killing of George Floyd. I joined calls for the prosecution of officers involved in his murder, joining Americans of disparate political persuasions in this demand.

But what started as a righteous, mostly peaceful protest against the horrific murder of George Floyd with chants that Black Lives Matter has morphed into a misguided attempted hijacking of, particularly, the Democratic Party by self-proclaimed Marxists, and a rewriting of our nation’s history and institutions.

As we commemorate the 244th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, it is imperative to simultaneously demand and win righteous reforms needed in a too-far-from-perfect union, while not succumbing to the hysteria to lawlessly purge our national symbols.

Initially, protesters came for the statues and flags symbolic of Confederate racism. But this new reckoning soon expanded into assaults on the framers of the nation itself; monuments of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and even Abraham Lincoln, who wrote the Emancipation Proclamation, have been destroyed.

Undoubtedly, founders including Washington and Jefferson were slaveholders and had views unacceptable by standards even then and certainly today. Indeed, our nation divided over the question of slavery, and monuments now being toppled and books being purged from our libraries only obscure that history. But we cannot ignore their profound role in founding this nation and the profound rights provided us, including free speech and free assembly.

For those of us advocating police reforms, it’s important to be mindful of their flaws while focusing on their advocacy of the rights of the accused. These founders precisely laid foundations for us to assert Miranda rights today because of the 4th amendment to the U.S. Constitution as part of the Bill of Rights these flawed founders drafted and supported, rights that prohibit unreasonable searches and seizures and that set requirements for issuing warrants with probable-cause mandates.

In San Francisco, a statue of President Ulysses S. Grant — the very general who defeated the Confederate Army, fought the Ku Klux Klan and advocated for the 15th amendment guaranteeing freed slaves the right to vote — was toppled. A Boston memorial commemorating an African-American regiment that fought in the Civil War was defaced. In Wisconsin, the statue of an abolitionist immigrant who fought for the Union Army was toppled.

It was soon seemingly anything goes, with demands to retire our national anthem as “racist.”

Elected officials were mostly caught flatfooted — wanting to sound “woke” to the marching masses in the streets of our cities, primarily politically “blue” ones. Soon, officials were sanctioning “autonomous” zones in their city centers while promising to “defund the police,” even as crime soared.

In a tragic irony, the very cities where calls to defund the police got the most traction — Los Angeles, Chicago, New York — have seen exploding rates of gun violence and senseless deaths. Each weekend brought news reports of “body counts” come in but we didn’t learn their names. Those Black lives — as young as 20 months! — never seem to matter to the “woke” crowd.

Meanwhile, corporations have reacted in breakneck speed to retire branding they suddenly felt not “woke” enough to meet the potential purchasing power of the 2020 Reckoning. Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben and Eskimo Pies were yanked. HBO sidelined “Gone With the Wind.”

In their golden bubbles, celebrities hailed the smashing, even changing their names to hide their Dixie ties. They preached to us — until tweets and videos depicting the sins of their own hypocritical pasts surfaced. Then they fell silent or took “personal leaves to be with their family.”

Undoubtedly, symbols matter. I cherish concrete pieces of the Berlin Wall I scooped up when I visited Germany following the fall of that wall as a historic testament to the sweeping of that age into the dustbin of history.

But changing the course of history is more than smashing symbols.

The founder of BET, Robert Johnson, recently said the violent protests were “tantamount to rearranging the deck chairs on a racial Titanic. It absolutely means nothing,” adding that those “tearing down statues, trying to make a statement are basically borderline anarchists. … They really have no agenda other than the idea we’re going to topple a statue. It’s not going to close the wealth gap. It’s not going to give a kid whose parents can’t afford college money to go to college. It’s not going to close the labor gap between what white workers are paid and what black workers are paid. And it’s not going to take people off welfare or food stamps.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s rush to remove portraits of former House speakers suddenly deemed unsuitable to no longer adorn the halls of Congress does not erase the fact that they were elected by members of the institution she leads. Nor does it erase the fact that she, along with former Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, delivered praise and eulogies for former Dixie senator and Klansman leader Robert Byrd. Nor does it substitute for real reforms.

As a Democrat, I’m ashamed of my party’s ugly history of support for segregation, Jim Crow laws and white supremacy. Yet the point of understanding history is not to whitewash it but to understand and use that understanding to change the course of history to ensure that that moral arc increasingly bends toward justice with each generation.

My father served this country in a segregated Army, returning to a segregated country where “No Mexicans” signs hung in café windows. Yet he never gave up on the promise of what America means, and the opportunities he envisioned for his children. He died in the early morning hours after celebrating his last Fourth of July in 1995. An American flag draped his coffin and I shivered at the sounding of “Taps” beckoning a new generation to do our part for the imperfect nation awaiting us.

I’m not willing to smash an American Dream I believe in, albeit deferred. We can and must overcome the systemic racism that has stained our nation without succumbing to anarchy, abandonment and abdication of who we are as a nation.

Gloria Romero previously served as Democratic majority leader in the California Senate.

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As police unions voice support for reform, we should listen: Susan Shelley

It’s the job of a labor union to represent its members in contract talks and to enforce the provisions of those contracts. It’s not a union’s job to protect members from the consequences of illegal or wrongful conduct.

However, a union’s obligation to provide representation and to enforce contract provisions that require due process can create the appearance that labor unions are defending indefensible conduct.

Try this thought experiment: imagine that a person you know to be innocent is wrongly accused of a crime or misconduct at work. The union that represents that person steps up to provide a defense and fight for every bit of due process that the contract requires or allows.

Now imagine that a person you know to be guilty is accused of a crime or misconduct at work. The union that represents that person steps up to provide a defense and fight for every bit of due process that the contract requires or allows.

The union’s actions are the same in each case, but your opinion of its actions may vary with your perception of the facts.

This explains much of the division in the nation today over policing. People have different experiences in their encounters with law enforcement based on their own physical characteristics. Whether police are making a reasonable judgment or acting in a discriminatory manner will always be a fair question, but there’s no denying that a 25-year-old Black man and a 25-year-old white woman are likely to be treated differently by police under some circumstances. Those experiences, over a lifetime, shape a person’s perception of the facts when they see something happen.

Sometimes video clips can be deceptive, and people can be manipulated with selective information that plays to their perceptions. Any mystery or detective story relies on leading your mind down the wrong path, just to pull the rug in a surprise ending that shows you how wrong you were.

When real lives are at stake, it’s not so entertaining. Police unions have the difficult job of standing up for police officers who have been accused of wrongdoing.

That’s why the significance of a recent development should not be underestimated. Three politically powerful police unions representing officers in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose took out full-page newspaper ads calling for reforms that could lead to some officers being removed from the force. “Police unions must root out racism wherever it rears its ugly head and root out any racist individual from our profession,” they wrote. “Police officers come from and reflect our communities. Unfortunately, there is racism in our communities and that means across our country that there are some racist police officers.”

The Los Angeles Police Protective League and the associations that represent police officers in San Francisco and San Jose called for “a national database of former police officers fired for gross misconduct that prevents other agencies from hiring them.” They also called for a national use-of-force standard similar to the one used by the LAPD, which emphasizes “de-escalation, a duty to intercede, proportional responses to dangerous incidents and a strong accountability provision.”

The unions said they want all police departments to follow San Francisco’s lead by implementing an “early warning system to identify officers who may need more training and mentoring.” They also called for departments to create websites to provide a “transparent, publicly accessible use-of-force analysis,” like the one established by the San Jose Police Department.

Transparency is essential when trust is essential. Everyone has to be able to trust that they will be treated fairly, or it’s likely they’ll respond in a way that sets off a chain of events that is life-destroying.

That’s true of both sides in any conflict.

Instead of looking backward and toppling historic statues, we should engage in a visionary exercise that imagines the world as we want it to be. Then we can measure proposed reforms and changes based on the likelihood that they’ll take us there.

The California Legislature has approved Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5, which if approved by voters in November would repeal Proposition 209, passed in 1996, and once again allow state institutions to use racial preferences in university admissions, hiring and contracting.

That’s a “reform” that embraces official judgment of people on the basis of race. Is that the path out of the trouble we’re in, or is that the path to more of what we’re trying to abolish?

Racism is a form of collectivism, the idea that a group identity must take precedence over the individual. The United States was founded on the idea that individuals have rights that cannot be taken away arbitrarily by the government, which means by a majority of other people.

Collectivism doesn’t end well. It leads to government control over everything. Because freedom is a condition that exists under a government of limited power, collectivism is the enemy of freedom.

The path out of the current turmoil doesn’t go through racial preferences or defunding the police or tearing down statues. The only path to peace and freedom is through the protection of people from each other.

For that, police are indispensable.

It’s an encouraging development that three California police unions have gone on record in support of reforms. Politicians and police departments all across the country would be well advised to listen.

Susan Shelley is an editorial writer and columnist for the Southern California News Group. Twitter: @Susan_Shelley.

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How you, and your freedom, got disqualified: Roger Ruvolo

As the Independence Day holiday approaches, read the Declaration of Independence and ask yourself: How independent are you? Can you speak freely? Do what you want jobwise? Go wherever you want to go? Associate with whomever you like?

Do the answers to those questions matter to you? If not, you may be part of the faction that thinks individual rights are dispensable, that social expediency, as defined by certain people at a certain time, takes precedence over individual freedoms.

If those questions do matter to you, then you’re part of the group that thinks our founding principles do make this country a unique political experiment that’s led to greater freedom and prosperity than the world has ever known. And you probably feel like part of a shrinking minority.

The social-expediency faction dominates one of our major political parties. With its soul sold to identity politics, it clangs around in a Great American Pinball Machine, bouncing off peg after peg:  This subject cannot be taught, that person cannot speak; police officers are no longer “heroic first responders,” they’re racists; being born with a certain skin pigment makes you evil; those people must give money to these people.

They can shut you up if they don’t like what you’re saying, or destroy you with ad-hominem attacks. They can disqualify you for any sin, real or fabricated, if it becomes propitious to do so. They do not respect or accept any election result won by their opponents. Anything the winners say or do is illegitimate.

Some, such as the Claremont historian and author Charles Kesler, call that “America’s cold civil war.” Maybe. But what’s the intellectual underpinning that manifests in all this hatred? Were you born with natural rights or not?

The Great American Pinball Machine has been around for generations, as evidenced by Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president and a leader of the Progressive movement. The Constitution got some gut punches from Wilson’s Progressives, who thought it antiquated. He also sneered at the declaration.

Wilson, in a July 4, 1911 speech to the Jefferson Club in Los Angeles, got into the pinball machine by telling listeners, “If you want to understand the real Declaration of Independence, do not repeat the preface.”

Nobody else called the first sentences of the declaration a “preface.” Wilson did in order to show disdain for the spirit of the American founding – that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights (life, liberty, pursuit of happiness). Dismiss that, and you dismiss the concepts that separated these United States from every other nation, before or since.

That’s fine, said Wilson. Dismissed.

All you have left, he said, is a bunch of griping about King George III.

Wilson’s descendants are the new King George. They explicitly and unapologetically want greatly expanded government to deal with new circumstances. The founders’ visions no longer apply.

Today’s progressivism descends from Wilson, the New Deal and Great Society. Wealth redistribution, victim groups, a leviathan administrative and regulatory state, punishment for infidels, ever-higher taxes, rapidly and constantly changing “principles” that might override a previously cherished “principle” – progressives don’t regret any of this. They want it.

Wilson disqualified a key part of one of the country’s founding documents. His descendants disqualify people, statues, institutions, even the country itself because some Americans had slaves. You wonder what country, now or ever, didn’t have faults, or which ones fought as valiantly and earnestly as the citizens of this country to correct them.

Wilson, in an 1887 essay titled “Socialism and Democracy,” asserts that there is no limit of public authority over an individual and that, “In fundamental theory, socialism and democracy are almost, if not quite, one and the same.”

College kids probably couldn’t quote you any of this, but many of them are “woke,” mostly because they just think “socialism” sounds cool.

That leads into well-charted waters, at least to people who haven’t had blinders installed by college professors or pop media. As the pinball machine and Seattle are demonstrating, progressivism and anarchy are almost, if not quite, one and the same.

What can you do? Be skeptical about the “resistance.” Avoid, or at least be able to spot, propaganda, whether on campus or “the news.” And this July 4th, read the Declaration aloud, all the way down to where the founders pledge to each other their lives, fortunes and sacred honor. Ask yourself if you’d pay that price for freedom.

Reach Roger Ruvolo at

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Black Americans don’t need white guilt-driven paternalism: Walter Williams

Many whites are ashamed, saddened and feel guilty about our history of slavery, Jim Crow and gross racial discrimination. Many Black people remain angry over the injustices of the past and what they see as injustices of the present. Both Blacks and whites can benefit from a better appreciation of Black history.

Often overlooked or ignored is the fact that, as a group, Black Americans have made the greatest gains, over some of the highest hurdles, and in a shorter span of time than any other racial group in history.

For example, if one totaled up the earnings and spending of Black Americans and considered us as a separate nation with our own gross domestic product, we would rank well within the top 20 richest nations. A Black American, Gen. Colin Powell, once headed the world’s mightiest military. Black Americans are among the world’s most famous personalities, and a few Black Americans are among the world’s richest people such as investor Robert F. Smith, IT service provider David Steward, Oprah Winfrey and basketball star Michael Jordan. Plus, there was a Black U.S. president.

The significance of these achievements cannot be overstated. When the Civil War ended, neither a slave nor a slave owner would have believed such progress would be possible in less than a century and a half — if ever. As such, it speaks to the intestinal fortitude of a people. Just as important, it speaks to the greatness of a nation in which such gains were possible. Nowhere else on Earth could such progress have been achieved except in the United States of America.

The issue that confronts us is how these gains can be extended to about one-quarter of the Black population for whom they have proven elusive. The first step is to acknowledge that the civil rights struggle is over and won. At one time, Black Americans did not enjoy the constitutional guarantees as everyone else. Now we do. While no one can deny the existence of residual racial discrimination, racial discrimination is not the major problem confronting a large segment of the black community.

A major problem is that some public and private policies reward dependency and irresponsibility. Chief among these policies is the welfare state that has fostered a 75 percent rate of out-of-wedlock births and decimated the Black family that had survived Jim Crow and racism. Keep in mind that in 1940 the Black illegitimacy rate was 11 percent and most Black children were raised in two-parent families. Most poverty, about 25%, is found in female-headed households. The poverty rate among husband-and-wife Black families has been in the single digits for more than two decades.

Black people can be thankful that double standards and public and private policies rewarding inferiority and irresponsibility were not a part of the 1920s, ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s. If there were, then there would not have been the kind of intellectual excellence and spiritual courage that created the world’s most successful civil rights movement. From the late 1800s to 1950, some Black schools were models of academic achievement. Black students at Washington’s Dunbar High School often outscored white students as early as 1899. Schools such as Frederick Douglass (Baltimore), Booker T. Washington (Atlanta), P.S. 91 (Brooklyn), McDonogh 35 (New Orleans) and others operated at a similar level of excellence.

Self-destructive behavior that has become acceptable, particularly that in predominantly Black schools, is nothing less than a gross betrayal of a struggle, paid with blood, sweat and tears by previous generations, to make possible today’s educational opportunities that are being routinely squandered. I guarantee that Blacks who lived through that struggle and are no longer with us would not have believed such a betrayal possible.

Government should do its job of protecting constitutional rights. After that, Black people should be simply left alone as opposed to being smothered by the paternalism inspired by white guilt. On that note, I just cannot resist the temptation to refer readers to my “Proclamation of Amnesty and Pardon,” available on my website, which grants Americans of European ancestry amnesty and pardon for their own grievances and those of their forebears against my people so that they stop feeling guilty and stop acting like fools in their relationship with Americans of African ancestry.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.

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Sanctuary policies rightly left to the states

During the most recent years of the national immigration debate, when California has led the way with a swaggering braggadocio in the fight with the federal government over protecting undocumented residents, this editorial board has agreed with state laws such as SB54 limiting local law enforcement’s cooperation with federal immigration agents with respect to enforcing federal immigration law.

State and local law enforcement officials should focus on state and local laws. Federal immigration officials should focus on federal immigration laws.

We have also viewed with skepticism some local jurisdictions’ on the left and the right grandstanding either as “sanctuary cities” or adamantly against offering sanctuary for immigrants. It always seemed more about political posturing than anything else. Cities should concentrate on providing local services.

We do agree that state and local police are not immigration agents and shouldn’t jail people solely for their immigration status.

So we agreed with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit 2019 ruling that the feds aren’t allowed to requisition California law enforcement to advance their immigration to-do list.

This week — this landmark week for jurisprudence — the United States Supreme Court, by declining to hear the Trump administration’s objection to the ruling, agreed.

The executive branch point is a simple one: it believes the federal government has an expectation that a state government will cooperate with it.

In the Ninth Circuit ruling, Judge Milan D. Smith Jr. succinctly writes why this is interesting, but wrong: “when questions of federalism are involved, we must distinguish between expectations and requirements. In this context, the federal government was free to expect as much as it wanted, but it could not require California’s cooperation.”

The administration seems obsessed with its desires “to arrest aliens — often criminal aliens.” But California law-enforcement agencies are perfectly capable of handling community safety and other police work without federal agents’ involvement. And many California police chiefs say the more their officers are seen to be involved with ICE and other federal authorities, the less comfortable community members are reporting crime and cooperating with local cops.

That’s reason enough to welcome the Supreme Court decision not to hear the case.

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California needs serious budget reform

The developing budget crisis for the state of California provides the perfect time for long-overdue reforms.

The California Constitution mandates a budget be passed by June 15. The Budget Act of 2020, Senate Bill 74, by state Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, passed on that date. She is the chair of the Senate Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review. But even advocates dubbed it a “placeholder budget,” pending events that will affect what goes into future trailer bills.

On Thursday, 40 blank trailer bills were approved by the Democratic supermajority. So expect plenty of mischief in the weeks ahead.

In the budget, the biggest hope is anticipating President Trump and the Congress will give California $14 billion in bailout funds. Regretfully, the whole country knows California is racing New Jersey and Illinois for the title of having the largest Unrestricted net deficit. And, good managers can debate on whether “hope” is an appropriate strategy.

California also is the only state that still has not produced a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2019. How’s that for displaying good fiscal management?

With the June 30, 2018 CAFR, the Golden State was bumped out of 50th place among the states for the first time in years, with the second-largest unrestricted net deficit in the nation at $213.3 billion, just ahead of New Jersey’s $214.1 billion. Who knows what the June 30, 2020 and future CAFRs will reflect as a result of the COVID-19 downturn? It will be easy to assume the deficits will grow.

Meanwhile, our constituents are reeling from unprecedented layoffs and business closures, teetering financially, living one paycheck at a time and exhausting their financial reserves. Paying off debts and rebuilding cash reserves will prevent the economy from expanding quickly. Consequently, I believe this COVID-19 depression will be a multi-year event.

Here are three essential strategies that Sacramento should implement to get through this crisis – and prepare for the future.

First, downsize state government to reflect what is happening in the rest of the economy. California’s cities, counties and school districts have already cut staff. The longer Sacramento waits to make real reductions at the state level, other than trigger cuts, the greater the pain will be in the next two fiscal years. The state can’t keep flying at or near the $220 billion level of annual state spending.

Sixty-seven assemblymembers co-sponsored the bipartisan House Resolution No. 97 on June 3, requesting the postponement of $4.2 billion of high-speed rail spending. Let’s get real and do it.

Second, it’s time for substantive pension reform. In two years, the Legislature will be notified by CalPERS and CalSTRS that the defined benefit pension plans’ annual required contributions will rise, probably significantly.

School districts could barely make their CalSTRS payments the last few years, even with Proposition 98 funding increases, because of their requirement to make higher pension plan contributions.

CalPERS is so desperate to achieve a 7 percent return goal, it is resorting to leveraging and acquiring very speculative investments with the proceeds. This is ludicrous.

The governor would be wise to establish a committee to make recommendations. The problem is the current defined benefit plans must pay out a certain amount, with cost-of-living adjustment increases, no matter how well the portfolio’s investments perform. There are better options.

The shared-risk plan Wisconsin implemented in 1982 was created with bipartisan support and the endorsement of that state’s unions. Its funding level hovers around 100 percent, compared to 70 percent in recent years for California’s funds, a funding ratio this is sure to drop. Shared-risk plans are flexible and can be adjusted depending on market conditions.

Public employees should understand that, if their unions stubbornly hang on to the current plans, there will be no employee pay raises or cost-of-living increases for several years. You can’t have both a defined benefit plan and pay raises. The math just will not work.

Third, pursue serious retiree medical reform. California’s current unfunded retiree medical liability of some $90 billion is a hungry animal to feed.

Orange County addressed its unfunded actuarial accrued liability in 2006, the year I was elected to the Board of Supervisors. We were able to work with the union bargaining units and reduced it by 71 percent.

If the state of California were to do the same, some $60 billion in liabilities could be removed from its balance sheet. And a significant amount in annual required contributions could be reduced in the state budget.

It’s time to get serious about our state’s finances. The days of tax increases are over. The days of putting bonds on the ballot should also be over. The days of gold-plated pensions must come to an end.

Better retirement strategies must be pursued moving forward. To get into the weeds, retiree medical plans that don’t even integrate with Medicare are inexcusable.

I’ve been through a Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy with Orange County in 1994-96. I’ve been through the Great Recession when I was chairman of the Board of Supervisors in 2008 and 2012.

These are difficult times, but I’ve learned the sooner the state moves, the better it goes.

The state needs to take a long-term perspective and to take advantage of reasonable opportunities. It’s a matter of urgency.

John M. W. Moorlach represents the 37th District in the California,

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Change is necessary, defunding the police is not: Young Kim

The death of George Floyd has shocked Americans and everyone around the world. We are still reeling from the grief and outrage.

What happened to George Floyd was wrong and should never happen to any American. No American should be deprived of their right to life, liberty, and happiness in that manner by those sworn to protect us. You cannot see what happened to George Floyd without being shaken to your core. The lack of compassion and care for human life by the officer and those with him, are horrifying and inexcusable

George Floyd’s death has sparked a nationwide conversation about race and police tactics in America. As an immigrant from South Korea, I have seen discrimination firsthand and I know the negative effects it has. I also know the complicated history of the Korean American community’s relationship with police.

There is no denying that some minority communities have grown to distrust the police. That is a problem and we should work to make sure that our minority communities have strong relationships and trust in law enforcement.

One proposal that has been gaining momentum in the media and in cities across America is defunding or dismantling police departments. This is irresponsible and not the solution to the issues we face. The vast majority of our law enforcement officers heroically serve and protect us. They have one of the most difficult jobs in our society. All communities count on law enforcement when they or their property are in peril. Abolishing or drastically cutting law enforcement budgets will not make our communities safer but rather leave those in need of protection vulnerable.

Let us work together as a community to move forward. We must work with our law enforcement to address the issues that have been raised over the years and ensure that we do better.

As we have seen over the years a small number of officers abuse their power and commit acts that are unacceptable from those sworn to protect us. As a community and country, we can take steps to address these issues.

Law enforcement must first make sure any officers who abuse their power are held accountable for their actions. Increasing transparency to ensure that officers who are fired for gross misconduct are not unwittingly hired by a different department and put back on the streets should also be a priority.

Our communities deserve law enforcement officers that they trust to conduct themselves to the highest ethical standards. The honorable hardworking officers who work to protect us don’t deserve to have a few bad officers tarnish their hard work and erode the trust that they have built.

Law enforcement should also reevaluate their use of force regulations as well as increase training to prevent instances of police brutality and decrease unnecessary use of force. Congress can assist by providing funds for training and prioritize de-escalation practices. Federally, we can also ensure law enforcement grants prioritize those departments that are practicing responsible policing techniques, employing body cameras, and are working to build bonds of trust with their communities.

Let us use this tragedy to move forward and make progress together as a country. That starts with treating each other with respect regardless of our race or occupation and having honest conversations without accusations or judgement. Let us turn our outrage to constructive action that will build up our community and work with our local law enforcement to increase trust and understanding. Change starts with each one of us taking personal responsibility. We can all do our part to be better for our fellow citizens and work together to ensure that the promise of America is available for all.

Young Kim is a former State Assemblywoman and Candidate for California’s 39th Congressional District.

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Is this the end of the line for California’s misbegotten bullet train project?

Is this the end of the line for California’s misbegotten bullet train project?

A bipartisan majority of the state Assembly, including Speaker Anthony Rendon, is sponsoring a resolution that directs the High-Speed Rail Authority (HSRA) to delay final contracts for the initial segment of the bullet train in the San Joaquin Valley until the Legislature appropriates $4.2 billion in state bonds.

On its merits, that’s entirely logical. Why would the state commit to billions of dollars for land acquisition and construction without having the money in hand? It doesn’t do that for other public works, nor should it.

However, in the context of rising legislative opposition to the project and sentiment for shifting the remaining bond funds to commuter transit projects in major urban areas, such a delay could be the beginning of the end.

Construction on the San Joaquin Valley segment’s roadbed, roughly from Chowchilla to an orchard north of Bakersfield, has been underway for several years, using a mixture of state and federal funds. After becoming governor in 2019, Gavin Newsom publicly disparaged the bullet train’s viability, but quickly retreated and proposed to extend the current segment northward to Merced and southward to Bakersfield, adding several billion dollars to the projected cost.

The HSRA wants to begin acquiring land for the extensions on both ends and award contracts for track, electrification and other major components.

“The only remaining opportunity for the Legislature to weigh in on the direction of the high-speed rail project occurs when (HSRA) asks us for the remaining $4.2 billion in bond funds,” one of the project’s chief critics, Assemblyman Jim Frazier, a Democrat from Discovery Bay, said in a statement.

“We cannot allow HSRA, or any department, to enter into contracts that bind the Legislature’s approval of future appropriations,” Frazier continued. “The Legislature’s role in approving the budget must be respected before key decisions on the state’s largest infrastructure project are made.”

Frazier chairs the Assembly Transportation Committee and has staged critical hearings on the HSRA’s latest business plan, which has also drawn criticism from the Legislature’s budget analyst, Gabe Petek.

Not only did Newsom throw cold water on prospects for a statewide bullet train system — a project much beloved by predecessor Jerry Brown — but Speaker Rendon has openly called for redirecting remaining funds into commuter transit.

“It is important to make sure that the High-Speed Rail Authority does not close the door to options other than the one created by a small handful of bureaucrats and the unelected authority board,” Rendon said in a statement. “The voters have been given no voice since 2008, and their elected representative, the Legislature, has had no vote since 2012.”

Another complicating factor is a sharp decline in revenues from the state’s cap-and-trade system of allocating allowances for greenhouse gas emissions. Brown and the Legislature agreed to give the project 25% of funds from quarterly auctions of emission allowances and that provided hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

The most recent auction, however, generated just $25 million and the future of cap-and-trade is uncertain unless it’s changed to compel industrial emitters to pay more. Legislators are discussing whether to give the California Air Resources Board authority to retool the program, the subject of a high-stakes political battle a couple of years ago.

Years of land acquisition and construction delays, ever-escalating costs and the abject lack of a clear public benefit have eroded political support for the bullet train and the new Assembly resolution indicates that it finally could be doomed – justifiably so.

CalMatters is a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters. For more stories by Dan Walters, go to

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