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Big Money Won All Its Bets on 2014 Propositions

By John Myers, KQED News Fix/Faultlines

The campaign with the bigger bank account often has the advantage in California ballot measure fights, but in 2014, that advantage was insurmountable. A new analysis shows that the side that spent the most got its way all four times last year with the passage of Proposition 47 and the defeat of Propositions 45, 46 and 48.

That is a 100 percent success rate for big money, far better than just 50 percent in 2012 and 57 percent for those who spent the most in 2010.

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix/Faultlines.

Covered California: Almost 1.3 Million Have Signed Up for New Coverage Through Obamacare

By Jon Brooks, The California Report/State of Health

Covered California, the state’s Obamacare exchange, has released its latest numbers for 2015 enrollment to date. Among the highlights:

  • Through Feb. 22, the end of open enrollment, 495,073 newly enrolled in a Covered California plan.
  • More than 780,000 new enrollees in Medi-Cal
  • As of Dec. 14, 2014, 944,000, or 92 percent of Covered California participants, renewed for 2015.
  • 90 percent of both old and new enrollees are eligible for a subsidy to help pay premiums

Read the complete story at The California Report/State of Health.

Saving California Parks With New Ideas and Technology

By Andrew Lam, New America Media

Standing on the corner of Mission and 16th,  a mixed neighborhood of yuppies and the Latino working class, Carlos Lopez, 19, said he has heard of Mount Tamalpais State Park. But he thinks it is far away and is not sure how to get there. When told it is only about 10 miles north of where he was standing, he was a little surprised. The images of rolling hills and rocky shores shown on an iPhone stoke his imagination. “Man, this is nice,” he said. “Now I want to go.”

The fact that Lopez, who grew up in San Francisco, does not know where Mt. Tam is has become a major concern for those who care about the future of California’s state parks. In recent years, the parks have suffered some serious setbacks, from cuts in funding to charges of mismanagement of those funds. In 2013, park officers were found by an investigation of the state attorney general’s office to have knowingly kept funds worth $20 million dollars hidden, even though 70 of the state’s 280 parks were up for closure.

Read the complete story at New America Media.

Soda Distributors Irked by Berkeley’s Follow-Through on Soda Tax

By Seung Y. Lee, KQED News Fix/Berkeleyside

As the co-owner of San Francisco-based Waterloo Beverages, Camilo Malaver enjoyed doing business in Berkeley. But he did not want anything to do with Berkeley after voters adopted a soda tax in November.

In January, when the tax was implemented, Malaver decided to stop restocking his supply of craft sodas and naturally sweetened beverages in Berkeley because he says the city has done a poor job of relaying information on how to comply with the tax. He’s keen to restock in Berkeley again, but for now he is waiting to see how the tax will develop.

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix/Berkeleyside.











































Fighting to Save and Popularize San Bruno Mountain

By Joshua Chin, Bay Nature

From the top of San Bruno Mountain, a mile south of San Francisco, the neighborhoods below look insignificant. David Schooley, an environmentalist who has spent most of his adult life fighting to protect the mountain from development, points toward rows of tiny houses built on land once piled with trash. We are standing in knee-high native grass. “There’s Berkeley,” Schooley said, looking toward the barely visible University of California clock tower across San Francisco Bay.

I am on a tour with Schooley, founder of San Bruno Mountain Watch, a grassroots organization that has been leading conservation efforts on the mountain for more than 30 years. Every fourth Saturday of the month, Schooley takes a group of curious explorers on a hike like this one, educating them about the numerous endangered plants and animals on the mountain.

Read the complete story at Bay Nature.


Bay Area Schools Put Race on Syllabus

By Liza Veale, KALW Crosscurrents

Beginning next fall, all San Francisco public schools will offer a class called Ethnic Studies. It is a look at American history and culture from the perspective of people who are not white. It is also a chance to break down race in the classroom and deal with tough concepts, like unconscious racism and structural inequality.

It  is a timely move, and one San Francisco School Board Director Emily Murase thinks can help solve what she calls a “crisis in race relations.” Murase said she is “very proud to be part of a community to find the antidote to that crisis to be. . . . an inclusive curriculum."

Read the complete story at KALW Crosscurrents. 

Assembly Democrats Want Real Estate Fees, Tax Credits for Affordable Housing

By Marisa Lagos, KQED News Fix/The California Report 

The leader of the state Assembly is unveiling an ambitious affordable housing proposal, one that could pump more than $600 million a year into  development at the local level.

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) was joined Wednesday afternoon by a wide range of prominent Democrats in Los Angeles, including state Treasurer John Chiang and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, to announce her plan. At its center: A proposal to institute a new transfer fee on real estate transactions, one Atkins’ staff characterizes as small; and expanding legislation proposed by Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) to increase the tax credit that real estate developers can claim when they build affordable housing.

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


Getting Driver’s License: An Economic Lifeline for Immigrants

By Viji Sundaram, New America Media

Between his full-time job as a paid caregiver and being a parent, Sonny Villar has little time for anything else, especially because of the hours he spends commuting to and from work by bus.

“It’s very, very tiring,” the Filipino native said.

Now, Villar is going online late at night and cramming for the California driver’s license test, scheduled for March 5, so he can get behind the wheel of a car, something he has been wanting to do since he arrived in the United States in 2003.

Read the complete story at New America Media.


San Francisco’s New Road Map for Better Late-Night Transit

By Bryan Goebel, KQED News Fix

For the first time in a decade, San Francisco transportation officials have a road map to improve late-night and early-morning travel for the tens of thousands of graveyard shift workers and night owls who currently have limited transportation options unless they drive.

In a 27-page report, city officials, nightlife advocates, labor union representatives and others recommend developing plans to make overnight local and transbay bus service more frequent, reliable and safe.

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix.


Medi-Cal Expansion Puts More Pressure on Providers

By Julie Small/The California Report/State of Health

Medi-Cal — the public health insurance program for low-income Californians — is growing faster under federal health care reform than the state expected. Twelve million residents — nearly a third of the state’s population — now rely on Medi-Cal, and that’s increased pressure to find more doctors willing and able to treat patients for what has historically been low reimbursement rates.

At the LifeLong Clinic in West Berkeley, most of the patients waiting to see a doctor are on Medi-Cal. Among them, 26-year-old Amanda Hopkins says she enrolled half a year ago when the state expanded the benefits program.

Read the complete story at The California Report/State of Health