California Black Media Political Playback: News You Might Have Missed

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By Tanu Henry, Antonio Ray Harvey and Joe W. Bowers Jr. | California Black Media


Gov. Newsom, Mayor Bass Respond to Los Angeles Freeway Fire 

On Nov. 11, Gov. Newsom declared a state of emergency after a fire at two nearby wooden pallet storage yards – covering an area of nearly eight acres — engulfed the Interstate 10 freeway in downtown Los Angeles, shutting down the busy throughfare where an estimated 300,000 vehicles traverse daily. 

The blaze downed power lines, compromised the underside of freeway 10, damaged several vehicles and affected a section of the highway from Alameda St. to the downtown interchange, including an overpass. Highway guardrails and support columns sustained significant damage.

“I have directed all city departments to immediately plan for how to address increased traffic due to this closure to best mitigate the impact on Angelenos and we will continue to urgently coordinate with our state partners to resolve this issue for not only the millions who use this freeway, but also for those who live and work in the surrounding areas,” Bass said in a statement. 

Authorities have closed traffic in both directions on the route that connects the coastal city of Santa Monica with other parts of Los Angeles before running inland into San Bernadino and Palm Springs. It continues into Arizona and across the United States, terminating in Jacksonville, Fla. 

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, according to Mayor Karen Bass’ office. There have been no reports of injuries or deaths. 

On Nov. 12, Newsom and Bass along with state and local officials held a press conference to update Californians on the investigation into the cause and origins of the fire; the extent, nature and cost of the damage; and how the state and city are responding with the help of the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, and other federal authorities. Before the briefing, Newsom, Bass and California Secretary of Transportation Toks Omishakin toured the damage. 

Newsom said he’s “sober and mindful” about the urgency to reopen the freeway. 

“The President of the United States will be in California within 48 hours. That’s encouraging as well.” Newsom added. “The White House has appropriately taken this seriously because of the economic consequences.”

Angelenos can get or sign up for emergency alerts and information on alternative routes here. 


On Veterans Day, U.S. Congressmember Barbara Lee (D-CA_12) joined members of the East Bay veteran community to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the USS Hornet and its 25th anniversary at a museum in Alameda. (Photo: Courtesy of Rep. Barbara Lee’s Facebook page)

For Veterans Day, Rep. Barbara Lee Stresses Health Care

In recognition of Veterans Day on Nov. 12, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-12) urged military veterans to submit claims for burn pit exposure, which research has shown is linked to several illnesses, including some cancers. 

“This Veterans Day, let us recognize the courageous servicemembers and their families who have sacrificed so much on behalf of our nation,” stated Lee, whose father was also a servicemember.

According to Lee, funds for treating veterans affected by ailments linked to burn pit exposure was made possible by the Honoring Our PACT Act, federal legislation President Biden signed into law in 2022. 

“It delivered more than $2.46 billion dollars in PACT Act benefits to veterans,” the statement from Lee’s office read. 

“Additionally, 1,103,860 total PACT Act-related claims have been submitted, more than 4.6 million veterans have received new toxic exposure screenings, and more than 426,000 new veterans have enrolled in VA health care,” Lee’s statement continued. 

Lee is currently in the race for California U.S. Senator. According to a Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll conducted in October, at 9%, Lee is trailing three frontrunners: Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA-47) at 17%; Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA-30) at 16%; and Republican Steve Garvey, a former professional baseball player at 10%. 


Do You Know Your Voter Status? California Secretary of State Shirley Weber Releases Latest Voter Registration Report

On Nov 6., California Secretary of State Shirley N. Weber released her department’s latest voter Report of Registration in anticipation of the March 2024 primary elections. 

The report, which covers a 154-day period ending Oct. 3, 2024, provides a running count of California voter registrations with data gathered from elections offices in the state’s 58 counties.

About 22.1 million people or 82.91% of eligible voters in the state have registered to vote. 

Among registered voters, Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly 50% with 46.82% or 10.3 million voters. Republicans account for 23.9% (5.2 million voters) followed by voters with no party preference at 22.2% (4.9 million voters). 

Californians who are registered to vote can also check or change their pollical party and vote-by-mail preferences on the Secretary of State’s website. 

The Report of Registration includes: 

Voter registration by political party, county, city, congressional district, state senate district, state assembly district, state board of equalization district, county supervisorial district, and political subdivision

Statewide voter registration by age group and by county

Historical comparisons to previous reports in odd-numbered year

Voter registration by political bodies attempting to qualify as political parties (by county)

Californians who are not yet registered to vote can do so or update their voter registration online as well. 


California Is Celebrating Its Sixth Annual “United Against Hate Week” 

The California Civil Rights Department (CRD) is joining local governments, advocates, and other partners to launch the United Against Hate Week (UAHW) in Berkeley on Nov. 13. 

The initiative was started by local government leaders and elected officials in the Bay Area after several hate groups held rallies in San Francisco and Berkeley. 

UAHW activities organized to raise awareness about hate and promote cross-racial and ethnic unity will run from Nov. 12 to 18. 

“The week is marked by individuals and community organizations coming together to host events and take action to help combat a national and statewide increase in hate,” reads a press release from the CRD. 

“In California, reported hate crimes have reached their highest levels since 2001 — jumping more than 20% from 2021 to 2022. As part of the state’s response to hate, the California Civil Rights Department recently launched CA vs Hate, a non-emergency, multilingual hate crime and incident reporting hotline and online portal,” the press release continues. 

Held at the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center in Berkeley, the Nov. 13 launch ceremony featured several prominent speakers, including Becky Monroe, Deputy Director, Strategic Initiatives and External Affairs at the California Civil Rights Department; Rick Callender, President of the California and Hawaii State Conference, NAACP; Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco); Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín. Ilan Davidson, President, L.A. County Commission on Human Relations; Patrice O’Neill, Founder and Co-Director, Not In Our Town; Pardeep Singh Kaleka, Senior Strategic Advisor, Not In Our Town. 


Sen. Steven Bradford: Former San Jose Cop Accused of Sending Racist Text Messages Should Be Decertified

Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Inglewood) reaffirmed his support for Senate Bill (SB) 2, state law he authored last week that bans police officers convicted of felonies anywhere in the United States from serving in law enforcement in California. The law revokes the certification of peace officers following a conviction of serious crimes or termination from employment due to misconduct.

Bradford, who is vice chair of the California Black Legislative Caucus CLBC, expressed that opinion in a statement he released about San Jose police officer Mark McNamara. 

McNamara resigned after an investigation found that he sent racist text messages after being involved in a 2022 shooting of Black a man outside of a San Jose taqueria. 

Bradford said McNamara is the “poster child” for police decertification and an example of why the law is necessary. 

“Individuals who harbor such racist and hateful views must never wear a badge and uniform in any city or state,” wrote Bradford. “Allowing Officer McNamara to resign is disgracefully inadequate. Racist cops like him should be fired and investigated for civil rights violations under the color of law. I strongly doubt his hatred and bias were limited to text messages, but likely, were displayed in his official capacity on the San Jose police force.”

Community groups, including the NAACP San Jose branch, Black Leadership Kitchen Cabinet and Silicon Valley DeBug, share Bradford’s perspective on McNamara and have stated their opposition to him returning to local law enforcement. 

In a Nov. 9 statement, San Jose Police Chief Anthony Mata responded to the Silicon Valley/San Jose branch of the NAACP’s concern. 

“I fully agree with the Silicon Valley/San Jose branch of the NAACP that former officer McNamara should not be a police officer in any other community. As a result, we reached out to the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) last week and submitted documentation earlier this week so they may begin the decertification process,” he said. 

The department is committed to ensuring Mr. McNamara cannot serve as a police officer elsewhere and will work with POST to ensure that decertification happens as soon as possible,” Mata stated.


Monica Montgomery-Steppe Is on Pace to Be San Diego County’s First Black County Supervisor 

From all indications last week, San Diego City Councilmember and former California Reparations Task Force member Monica Montgomery-Steppe will be elected the county’s Fourth District Supervisor.

Early results in the special election for San Diego County Supervisor show that Montgomery-Steppe holds a commanding 22% margin over private investigator Amy Reichert as of Nov. 9. 

District 4 has 700,000 residents.

Montgomery-Steppe, who has declared victory in the race, is a Democrat. She won the Aug. 15 primary with 41.7% of the vote while Reichert, a Republican, came in second with 28.8%. Montgomery-Steppe would be the first Black woman to serve on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors should those figures hold. 

County District 4 covers parts of central San Diego, La Mesa, Lemon Grove and Spring Valley.

“The Board of Supervisors serves over 3.2 million San Diegans – this is not a task I take lightly. As your Supervisor, I look forward to teaming up with you to tackle homelessness, promote holistic public safety, and invest in our County. Together, we can move the People’s Country forward,” Montgomery-Steppe said in a Nov. 7 statement.


CA State Board of Education president Linda Darling-Hammond (Photo: Rod Searcey)

Chronic Absenteeism Rates in California Schools Are Improving 

Last week, the California Department of Education (CDE), officially released its assessment of student absenteeism in the context of the state’s recovery effort from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

All student groups showed improved chronic absenteeism rates, with the largest declines demonstrated by American Indian or Alaska Native, Hispanic or Latino, Pacific Islander, and African American students.

 The chronic absenteeism rate measures the number of students who missed 10% of the days they were expected to attend for any reason.

In addition, the average number of days absent decreased to 14.6 from a high of 16.7 in the 2021–22 school year. The total Chronic Absenteeism Eligible Enrollment was 301,921.  

African American students accounted for 110,537 or 36.6%.

The results include data for the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) and the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC). 

Compared with other states that have released chronic absenteeism data for the 2022–23 school year. California’s current rate is lower than states including Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, and Ohio.

“These results suggest that California’s public schools are beginning to turn the corner on pandemic recovery, with gains on most assessments and a substantial reduction in chronic absenteeism, especially for our most vulnerable groups of students,” California State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond said in a statement. 

“Our Governor and Legislature have substantially increased funding for schools to enable educators to invest in effective strategies like high-dose tutoring, after school and summer learning, mental health supports, and universal preschool to accelerate learning and engage students,” Darling-Hammond added.