By Tanu Henry,
California Black Media
Stories You Might Have Missed Last Week.
White House Approves Storm Recovery Support for California Communities
Last week, the White House approved major disaster support for California’s recovery from a series of severe storms that have battered the state.
According to a White House press release, the emergency aid is to supplement State, tribal, and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by severe winter storms, straight-line winds, flooding, landslides, and mudslides beginning on Feb. 21, 2023, and continuing.”
Gov. Newsom said California’s first responders have already been deployed to hard-hit areas of the state where the need for recovery aid is most urgent.
“We are committed to supporting our communities over the long haul and thank the Biden Administration for their continued partnership,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom. “The Presidential Major Disaster Declaration will help Californians in impacted counties through eligibility for several programs and supports that can include housing assistance, food aid, counseling, and medical and legal services.”
The federal funds will benefit people impacted in Kern, Mariposa, Monterey, San Benito, Santa Cruz, Tulare, and Tuolumne counties, according to the governor.
To apply for assistance, residents and business owners in the impacted counties can register online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or call 1-800-621-3362 or 1-800-462-7585 TTY.
Pilot Program May Bring Speed Cameras to 6 California Cities
A bill making its way through the California Assembly is proposing a five-year pilot program that would temporarily legalize speed enforcement cameras in six California cities: Los Angeles, San Jose, Oakland, Glendale, Long Beach and San Francisco.
Introduced by Assemblymembers Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), Assembly Bill (AB) 645 to encourage safe driving and lower the incidents of car crashes that result in injuries or death.
“My city of San Francisco is committed to reducing traffic fatalities to zero,” Ting said in a press release explaining the proposal. “More than 70% of our city’s fatalities occur on just 12% of our streets.”
Legislations similar to AB 645 have met resistance both at the local and state level from privacy advocates who argue that the remote cameras will be intrusive and law enforcement organizations who fear automating that function would eliminate police officer jobs.
California Releases Report on Gun Owner Tracking System
Last week, California Attorney General Rob Bonta released a program report on the state’s Prohibited Persons System (APPS), the only resource of its kind in the United States created to track registered firearm owners whose rights to possess guns have been revoked authorities.
Launched in 2006, the Armed and Prohibited Persons System (APPS) database identifies gun owners who have fallen into prohibited status, including people convicted of felonies or violent misdemeanors and others under restraining orders for domestic violence or other offenses.
“I’m proud of the work our Special Agents do on behalf of the people of California,” said Bonta. “These brave agents are rarely in the spotlight, but they are working every day to prevent gun violence from ever happening by removing dangerous weapons from communities.”
According to the report, the California Department of Justice (DOJ) made significant progress over the course of 2022 identifying people who own guns illegally and recovering weapons in their possession.
“DOJ recovered 1,437 firearms — including 712 handguns, 360 rifles, 194 shotguns, 80 assault weapons, 54 ghost guns, 43 receivers or frames, 3 short-barreled shotguns, and one machine gun,” read a DOJ press release. “Agents also seized 308 large-capacity magazines, 2,123 standard capacity magazines, and 281,299 rounds of ammunition through APPS enforcement actions. As of January 1, 2023, there were 3,347,221 known registered firearm owners in California of which 23,869 are prohibited from owning or possessing firearms, making up less than 1%.”
California Leaders Condemn Expulsion of Black Lawmakers in Tennessee
The Republican Majority in the Tennessee House of Representatives took the unprecedented move last week to expel two Black Democratic lawmakers, former Rep. Justin Jones and former Rep. Justin Pearson, for protesting for gun control during session.
The decision, which was widely criticized – even by members of the GOP – was met with widespread condemnation across the country, including several prominent Black leaders in California.
The California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) issued a statement.
“Our 12-member body of Black legislators representing Black Californians boldly stand with our Tennessee state legislative colleagues in the national fight to end the illegal use of guns and the devastating violence it brings onto our communities and families,” said CLBC Chair, Assemblymember Lori Wilson (D-Suisun).
CLBC Vice Chair Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Inglewood) says he and his Black colleagues in the California Legislature would take the same approach.
“We are in solidarity with the two courageous brothers exercising their first amendment right. We would have taken the same approach in representing the people’s voices,” Bradford added.
Dezie Woods-Jones, president and founding member of Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) said the expelled Tennessee lawmakers were exercising their constitutional rights and fulfilling their duties as elected officials.
“BWOPA-CA proudly stands in solidarity with Tennessee representatives Jones and Pearson and call for their immediate reinstatement,” Woods Jones said. This is a stark reminder of the focused work that is before us to complete in dismantling systemic biases — even against our elected leaders.
CLBC Caucus Chair Lori Wilson Receiving Treatment for Cancer
On April 7, California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) Chair Lori Wilson (D-Suisun) announced that she is receiving treatment for breast cancer.
The lawmaker, who was elected last year, thanked supporters for all the love and support she has received and assured constituents that she will still be fighting for their interests.
“I remain steadfast in my dedication to serve the residents of the 11th Assembly District,” Wilson said.
Assemblymember Akilah Weber to Run for State Senate
On April 6, Assemblymember Akilah Weber (D-La Mesa) announced she is entering the race to replace Senate President pro tempore Toni Atkins, who is termed out at the end of this year.
Weber, who is also a physician, represents the 79th Assembly District in the greater San Diego area.
“I have successfully fought to improve access to quality healthcare, strengthen our education system, protect our environment, and further economic prosperity,” Weber said in a statement. “As state Senator for District 39, I will continue this fight.”
Weber’s announcement came roughly a week after San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher withdrew from the race citing his battle with alcohol abuse and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Fletcher is also facing allegations of sexual harassment and infidelity.
In 2021, Weber won a special election to replace her mother, Shirley N. Weber, in the Assembly after the elder Weber was appointed Secretary of State by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
California Democratic Party Convention Announces 2023 Theme
Last week, the California Democratic Party announced the theme for its 2023 convention, which will be held May 25 to May 28: “Don’t Agonize, Organize.”
During this year’s conference, which will be held in Los Angeles, the California Democratic Party Black Caucus (CDPBC) will hold elections and U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-11) will be honored.
Assemblymember Corey Jackson (D-Riverside) is currently chair of the CDPBC.