This Week in “What the…?” – Bailout Edition

This Week in “What the…?” – Bailout Edition

Remember AIG? AIG is the firm that insured piles of risky securities backed by trick mortgages during the housing bubble, and had to be bailed out by the Feds with boatloads of our tax dollars. In the midst of being bailed out, the company paid $165 million in “retention” bonuses to some of the very executives who engineered the catastrophe in the first place. But criticizing the company for this, apparently, is just like being part of a racist lynch mob. At least, that’s the opinion of AIG CEO Robert Benmosche, who told an interviewer that criticism of AIG’s bonuses “was intended to stir public anger, to get everybody out…
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The Possible Government Shutdown and Why It Matters

The Possible Government Shutdown and Why It Matters

There is a looming government shutdown over an attempt to kill the Affordable Care Act, and some in Congress are making threats about what needs to be done to prevent it.  The strange part is that these members of Congress are the ones who have created the possibility of a shutdown, and they are the only ones who can prevent it. Let me explain.  Congress creates federal laws and the budget.  The president can recommend a law or budget and suggest additions or changes, but ultimately the budget and the ACA (sometimes called “Obamacare”) were voted on and passed by Congress.  If Congress creates a budget problem, Congress has to…
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The Press, the Legislature and the Power of Silence

The Press, the Legislature and the Power of Silence

What if they passed a law and no one knew about it? Or what if they killed a potentially good law and no one knew in time to try to save it? That’s happening a lot in Sacramento – and, I’m willing to bet, in other state capitals as well. But you have to look hard to see that it’s happening. This is occurring for two reasons. One is that there are simply fewer reporters covering the news in our state capitol. As Randy Shandobil, who left KTVU television here in the Bay Area a couple years ago to start his own communications firm, pointed out in a recent column…
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SB 649: One Step Closer to a Fairer Criminal Justice System

SB 649: One Step Closer to a Fairer Criminal Justice System

Props to Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) for stepping up to help fix our broken justice system. Last week, his SB 649 passed the Assembly, with concurrence from the Senate, and now moves on to the Governor. If signed into law, the bill will help shrink our prison population and reduce recidivism by offering offenders opportunities for rehabilitation, access to jobs, and to reenter their communities. Please Contact Gov. Jerry Brown right away and tell him and tell him to sign SB 649. This historic drug sentencing reform bill allows counties to significantly reduce incarceration costs by giving local prosecutors the flexibility to charge low-level, nonviolent drug offenses as misdemeanors…
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Clean Cars For All Legislation On Its Way To The Governor’s Desk

Clean Cars For All Legislation On Its Way To The Governor’s Desk

Greenlining’s Environmental Equity team often highlights the unjustly high levels of asthma and other pollution related illnesses in California’s communities of color, problems that will only get worse with an increasingly severe climate crisis.  We also know that for various reasons older, high-polluting and fuel inefficient vehicles tend to be concentrated in our neighborhoods.  In fact, it is estimated that 75 percent of vehicular pollution is caused by just 25 percent of the vehicle fleet.  Fuel costs tend to eat up a greater percentage of low-income families’ take-home pay.  Taken together, what does all of this mean for our communities? We are not only disproportionately affected by pollution, but are also hit harder in our wallets each time we fill…
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California Sets Golden Standard for Immigrants, Minimum Wage

California Sets Golden Standard for Immigrants, Minimum Wage

Working late into the night yesterday, the California legislature successfully passed two high-profile bills that will surely become the talk of the country. Before Syria and foreign policy came into the limelight, national discussions focused on issues like comprehensive immigration reform and raising the minimum wage. It looks like yesterday’s actions from the California legislature will help resurface the discussions of these issues. AB 60, a bill sponsored by Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Salinas) who is an alum of Casa, our residential leadership program, will allow undocumented immigrants to obtain California driver’s licenses. This is a huge deal for hard-working immigrant communities, since the new law will enable families and individuals…
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Five Years Later, Slow Progress on Dodd-Frank Reforms

Five Years Later, Slow Progress on Dodd-Frank Reforms

Five years ago this month, our economy was in a world of hurt. From the Dow’s record one-day plunge to Lehman Brothers filing for bankruptcy, the pain was spread far and wide. But it was underserved communities who took the hardest hit from the crisis and accompanying mortgage meltdown. For example, the Brandeis Institute on Assets and Social Policy found that, in the short period between 2007 and 2009, black families lost half their collective wealth and Latinos lost an appalling 67%. And The Urban Institute showed that the racial wealth gap is the largest it has ever been since the Federal Reserve started tracking it. The task of recovery…
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1964, Civil Rights – and the Beatles?

1964, Civil Rights – and the Beatles?

There have been lots of momentous civil rights anniversaries this year, and there will be more next year. This one isn’t momentous, but it shouldn’t be forgotten: It happened exactly 49 years ago today and involved four white guys from Great Britain. The Beatles, on their first-ever U.S. concert tour, were astonished to find that the Jacksonville, Florida Gator Bowl where they’d been booked to play was racially segregated — despite the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 earlier that summer. That’s when the band did something rather nervy for a bunch of foreigners playing in the U.S. for the first time (and who, it should be remembered,…
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Up Close and Personal with Cal/EPA Secretary Rodriguez

Up Close and Personal with Cal/EPA Secretary Rodriguez

  Last week, we met with California Environmental Protection Agency Secretary (Cal/EPA) Matthew Rodriguez to discuss the California Environmental Screen (CalEnviroScreen). The CalEnviroScreen is a tool that focuses both on environmental and socioeconomic indicators to calculate the most polluted zip codes throughout California. It was exciting to hear Secretary Rodriguez discuss the potential for this tool to improve the environmental quality of disadvantaged communities. Secretary Rodriguez’s deep insight into the conditions of disadvantaged communities – and how CalEnviroScreen might be used to mitigate some of our communities’ longstanding problems – serves as a model for decision-makers. Most importantly, it was inspiring to see his interaction with the different stakeholders and his…
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