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San Francisco, Oakland Working to Put Soda Tax Before Voters

By Lisa Aliferis, KQED News Fix/State of Health

Berkeley was the trend setter in 2014 when voters there approved the first a soda tax in the U.S. with a resounding 75 percent of the vote.

That same year San Francisco voters rejected a soda tax. But supporters were not deterred. Now, new efforts have resumed in San Francisco and in Oakland to move through a tax with a goal of fighting the obesity and diabetes epidemic. Both cities seem to be applying lessons from the Berkeley playbook to see the taxes through.

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix/State of Health.


What Will California Do With Too Much Solar?

By Lauren Sommer, KQED News Fix/Science

Solar energy records are falling left and right in California these days, as the state steams ahead toward its ambitious renewable energy goals.

But the success of solar has brought about a hidden downside: On some perfectly sunny days, solar farms are being told to turn off.

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix/Science


Tenant Advocates Denounce Startup Offering Buyout Services

By Laura Waxmann, Mission Local

Rent Masters, a startup offering to help tenants willing to move out of rent-controlled housing figure out what they would be owed in buyout money, came under fire this month by the city’s housing rights community.

In a buyout, a tenant agrees to vacate a unit in exchange for a payout by the landlord. Negotiations involved in this process can be lengthy and taxing, and tenants are often left with a compensation that sounds big but vanishes quickly as the tenants search for new housing.

Rent Masters founder Brian Bensch, however, argues that there are situations in which both parties can benefit equally from a buyout. His company, he said, taps into a “unique but necessary” market by using technology to empower tenants. 

Read the complete story at Mission Local. 

Seniors Working Hard for Their Money: 10 Million — Many Ethnic — in Tough Jobs

By Paul Kleyman, New America Media

A new study estimates that “10.2 million workers ages 58 and older (43.8 percent) were employed either in physically demanding jobs or jobs with difficult working conditions” — with high proportions of older Latinos and African American workers, as well as immigrants, those with poverty incomes or low educational levels.

The authors of the report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research say this situation should give pause to both conservative presidential candidates and some liberal policy experts, who have recommended raising the full retirement age in Social Security.

Read the complete story at New America Media.

Two Deaths in 1 Jail in 1 Month: How Are We Treating Mentally Ill Inmates?

By Lisa Pickoff-White and Julie Small, KQED News Fix/The California Report

The final three weeks of Walter Roches’ life last September were, like much of his previous decade, violent and chaotic, complicated by mental illness and repeated encounters with law enforcement. Roches, 32, had completed a state prison sentence for domestic violence.

Afterward, he was placed in the Evans Lane Wellness and Recovery Center, a San Jose facility that, among other things, treats mentally ill parolees.

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix/The California Report.

Grappling With Homelessness, BART Station by BART Station

By Holly McDede, KALW Crosscurrents

There has been a 45 percent increase in mental health-related calls to BART police since 2011. When officers don’t know what to do, they call Armando Sandoval.

As BART’s community outreach liaison, Sandoval spends a big chunk of his mornings walking around downtown San Francisco BART stations waking up homeless people and asking how he can help them.

Read the complete story at KALW Crosscurrents.

California Crime on the Rise

By Matt Levin, CALmatters

After a decades-long decline in violent and property crime, early indications from cities across California point to a significant increase in lawbreaking.

In California’s 68 largest cities, violent crime jumped 11 percent in the first six months of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014. Among major U.S. cities, three California cities saw the largest increase in property crime in the country.  

Read the complete story at CALmatters.

Are Tiny Homes a Solution to Homelessness?

By Truc Nguyen, KALW/Crosscurrents

Last month, San Francisco city workers cleared a large tent encampment of homeless people on Division Street. Citing complaints about urine, feces and blocked sidewalks, the city’s Public Health Department declared the area unsafe and a public health hazard.

While the city offered places at a new shelter at Pier 80, many of the displaced tent residents simply moved their belongings to surrounding alleys where, arguably, health hazards remain an issue.

Since homeless shelters are not always a viable or desirable option for people on the street, some are proposing a novel idea: tiny homes for the homeless.

Read the complete story at  KALW/Crosscurrents.

Why Do Women Dominate Political Fundraising?

By Katie Orr, KQED News Fix/The California Report

It’s shaping up to be a pricey election cycle in California, maybe the most expensive ever. And politicians at all levels are trying to tap into the state’s deep-pocketed donors. Raising money for all those campaigns is a full-time job — and it’s a job done largely by women.

The woman in charge of fundraising for the California Democratic Party is Angie Tate. She is often credited with raising a multimillion-dollar war chest for Gov. Jerry Brown, although she insists the governor did most of the work. That attitude is at the core of Tate’s take on fundraising. 

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix/The California Report.

Earn Less Than $13,870? California Rewards Low-Income Tax Filers

By Viji SundaramNew America Media

 The Golden State’s poverty statistics are grim: Two in five people live just over the federal poverty level, and the state has the highest child poverty rate in the nation.

But this year, for the first time, California’s working poor will get to keep more of their earnings in their pockets, thanks to the California Earned Income Tax Credit. But people with low incomes — less than $13,870 a year — must be sure to file their taxes in order to get their money back.

Read the complete story at New America Media.