Supreme Court denies redistricting challenges

The California Supreme Court today unanimously denied two pending petitions challengeing the validity of the state Senate and congressional redistricting maps created and certified by the Citizens Redistricting Commission.

The court also denied petitioners’ requests for an emergency stay of the certified maps. All seven justices participated in the court’s action.

The Citizens Redistricting Commission on Aug. 15 certified to the Secretary of State all four required statewide electoral maps, covering the 40 State Senate and 80 Assembly districts, California’s 53 congressional districts, and the 4 districts of the California State Board of Equalization. The petitions for writs of mandate filed in the Supreme Court challenged only the state Senate and congressional districts.


The full pool report from Obama’s SF fundraiser

Here’s the complete readout on President Obama’s remarks this afternoon at a fundraising luncheon in San Francisco’s W Hotel, as reported by the Wall Street Journal’s Laura Meckler (the White House travelling press corps’ designated pool reporter for the day, as no local press was allowed into the event):

Asked for notables at the San Fran funder, a Democratic official pointed to Shervin Pishevar, head of Menlo Ventures.

President Obama made a direct appeal for help in the upcoming election. “Whether you are an old grizzled veteran or new to the scene, I need your help,” he said. He said that the coming election was “more consequential, more important” to the future of nation and its kids than the last one.

He talked about the economic crisis facing the country and his vision for the nation.
“America should be a place where you can make it if you try… a country where everyone has a fair shake and everyone does their fair share.”

He talked about his jobs bill in familiar terms and referred to the tax increases by saying the bill was fully paid for “by asking those of us who’ve been most blessed in this society to do a little bit more.”

He said his jobs bill would “give the economy the jolt it needs right now.”

He pointed to the recent Senate bill that taxed those earning over $1 million per year to give state aid to retain teacher and other public sector jobs. He said that for someone making $1.1 million a year, “that’s an extra $500, 500 bucks.” The audience replied with some laughter. “That would save 400,000 jobs all across the country.” He said they were “not just any jobs but jobs that are vital” to the well being of our kids and communities. He said most people he knows “would make that contribution willingly,” and the audience applauded in agreement.

“So this is the fight we’re having right now. This is frankly what the next year is going to be about.”

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Obama urged to nix medical marijuana crackdown

Medical marijuana advocates gathered Tuesday morning in San Francisco to urge President Obama, arriving in the city later in the day, to call off federal prosecutors’ crackdown on dispensaries across the state.

“This is getting a little Kafkaesque for my blood,” said Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, said at a news conference a few blocks from where the president was scheduled to raise funds a few hours later. “They’re acing rather like thugs.”

“I’m an Obama fan, however I also believe in loyal opposition, and I’m very loyally opposed to what’s happening here,” he said. “We are asking that he intervene here.”

Ammiano said he has asked House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and other California House members to help set up a meeting with Justice Department and IRS officials to discuss their intentions; he said he also wants more input from Gov. Jerry Brown and state Attorney General Kamala Harris. “But right now, zip is happening, and it’s a slap in the face to all the people who voted for (Proposition) 215.”

San Francisco Supervisor David Campos said there’s “a great deal of disappointment that those of us who have supported and continue to support President Obama have about how this is being handled.” Such people now call upon him “to do what he promised, to do the right thing,” Campos said; he said he’ll introduce a resolution to the Board of Supervisors that takes a stand against the crackdown and asks the federal government to respect state law. “This is a states’ rights issue, and California voters have spoken on this.”

Stephen DeAngelo, whose Harborside Health Center in Oakland was recently hit with a multimillion-dollar tax bill after IRS auditors said it can’t use the same deductions as other small businesses, said a glance at who the federal prosecutors are targeting proves they’re not limiting themselves to profiteers and interstate bootleggers as they’d said they would.

Instead, he said, they’ve targeted places like his own dispensary, the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana and Northstone Organics in Mendocino County, all of which have been “100 percent compliant and have never diverted a single gram of marijuana out of state.” All the federal authorities are doing is threatening the security of tens of thousands of patients, denying local governments many millions in tax revenue, and putting thousands of people out of work, he said.

“They should either learn how to aim, or learn how to tell the truth,” DeAngelo said.

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Lawmakers weigh in on new home refinance plan

Local members of Congress applauded President Obama ‘s announcement today of new policies meant to shore up the shaky housing market – a plan that could help a lot of Bay Area homeowners refinance “underwater” mortgages at historically low interest rates.

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

“I am very pleased that the administration is taking these steps to help responsible homeowners refinance at historically low interest rates. Allowing these homeowners to refinance at today’s record low rates will keep families in their homes and boost the economy by putting thousands of dollars back in the pockets of borrowers. I urge FHFA to move swiftly to assure that these new policies will help as many homeowners as possible.”

From Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton:

“I am glad that a step has been taken in the right direction. I hope this has a positive effect, but if it does not deliver, I will continue to hold the Obama Administration accountable and demand relief for homeowners. We must do more to help the people of California who have been plagued by the foreclosure crisis from day one.

“For far too long, I have heard heartbreaking stories from people in our region: tales of people doing everything they can, and still being foreclosed upon. I will continue to fight for more real, commonsense solutions to the housing crisis and to keep the pressure on the folks in Washington to help our community.

“We need to relieve some of the financial burden for homeowners who are ‘underwater,’ not only to more foreclosures, but to generate more money that will go into our local businesses. Helping the people of our region stay in their homes is step one to restoring our economy.”

From Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto:

“The President took a positive first step today to help address the catastrophic housing situation in the country. It’s not enough though. Up to a million families nationally could be helped, but there are two million underwater homeowners in California alone.

“We need meaningful principal reductions on a large scale. It’s time to implement a Homeowner’s Bill of Rights that ends dual-tracking and creates a single point of contact for borrowers. The size and scope of this housing crisis requires us to think big. Our nation’s economy simply will not recover until the crisis of foreclosures is over.”

From Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough:

“Finally, relief for the middle class families of America! I applaud the FHFA for taking bold and needed action. I and many of my colleagues had appealed directly to Mr. DeMarco, the head of FHFA, to take these actions to refinance middle class America, and he has responded. In particular, the decision not to put a cap on the loan-to-value ratio that is eligible to be refinanced via a fixed rate mortgage will mean that potentially millions of homeowners will be eligible. Given that Fannie and Freddie are owned by taxpayers, this decision is a win for them as well. There are reduced odds of losses from the guarantees issued by these two agencies, and there is no cost to taxpayers because Fannie and Freddie will fund this refinancing activity through new bonds. If the wave materializes, it could also help to stabilize the housing market in neighborhoods where refinancing occurs frequently, and could potentially put thousands of dollars into the pockets of a strapped homeowner who refinances. All in all, I only wish that this process could begin immediately, but I understand that banks aren’t set up to handle a wave of applicants. Hopefully, competition between lenders will force them to participate in this new program and drive them to get set up rapidly.”


House Democrats want water deal rescinded

Five Northern California House Democrats demanded answers Monday from the Interior Department on the Bay-Delta planning process, urging the department to rescind a “flawed” deal developed behind closed doors.

That memorandum of agreement, they say, gives water export agencies south of the Delta and in Southern California unprecedented influence over a public process affecting California’s fresh water supplies.

Reps. George Miller, D-Martinez; Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton; John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena; and Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, wrote a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar asking that the agreement his department made with the water agencies be withdrawn and the process be opened up to include other key stakeholders left out of the discussions, including Bay Area, Delta and coastal communities, farmers, businesses, and fishermen.

“Interior should immediately rescind this flawed MOA and work instead to establish a successful BDCP (Bay-Delta Conservation Plan) process that is transparent and based on parity, and that genuinely puts the restoration of the Bay-Delta and its fisheries, the needs of local communities, and the quality of local water resources on par with other water supply goals,” the lawmakers wrote.

They claim the agreement includes an unreasonable timeline and raises expectations of favorable treatment for the water agencies that signed it.

The agencies’ desired policies “have the potential to harm the Bay-Delta, fishing communities, local farmers, and our constituents more broadly,” the lawmakers wrote. “They compromise Interior’s ability to exercise its mandates to restore the Bay-Delta ecosystem and California’s fisheries, and to consider the interests of all stakeholder groups. And they were developed in closed-door negotiations with the water export contractors that excluded all other interests.”

The lawmakers met repeatedly recently with Interior Department and California officials to express their concerns about the agreement signed with water export agencies, and the department had told them to expect an answer to their inquiries early last week. None came, and today’s letter demands a written response from Salazar by next Monday.

Interior Department press secretary Adam Fetcher said the letter was received and the department will respond directly to the House members.

“Secretary Salazar has been clear that California’s complex water problems require science-based solutions developed as part of a close partnership between the federal and state government, as well as all key stakeholders,” he said. “Transparency and accessibility for all parties in this process is a key part of our efforts to move forward with the BDCP as quickly as possible in order to address the all-important goals of a healthy Bay Delta ecosystem and a reliable water supply for California.”


RAND Corp. retracts pot dispensary crime study

The RAND Corporation today retracted the study it had released last month questioning the long-held law enforcement assertion that medical marijuana dispensaries contribute to neighborhood crime.

The study of 600 marijuana dispensaries – some of which shut down, some of which stayed open – over a three-week period in 2010 had indicated crime actually rises in surrounding neighborhoods when dispensaries close. “Overall crime increased almost 60 percent in the blocks surrounding closed clinics in the ten days following their closing,” the report had said.

It was immediately touted by medical marijuana advocates from coast to coast as evidence that police complaints of criminal activity at or near dispensaries were bogus. Law enforcement replied the study was too small a sample over too short a time.

RAND announced Monday that questions raised after the study’s publication prompted the prominent think tank “to undertake an unusual post-publication internal review of the study,” its press release said. “That review determined the crime data used in the analysis are insufficient to answer the questions targeted by the study.”

In fact, RAND said, the big problem with the study was that the data described as covering the city of Los Angeles and surrounding areas did not include crime data reported by the Los Angeles Police Department. RAND researchers will conduct a new analysis after gathering adequate crime data, a process that could take many more weeks.

“This was a rare failure of our peer review system,” said Debra Knopman, vice president of the RAND Infrastructure, Safety and Environment division. “We take our commitment to quality and objectivity seriously so we have retracted the study in order to correct it.”

We’ll have a full story on this later today: I’ll be talking to the RAND folks in about an hour, and have reached out to law enforcement and medical-marijuana advocates for comment.

UPDATE @ 3:10 P.M.: Click here to read the full story.