How an infamous Berkeley human trafficking case fueled reform

Viji Sundaram, New America Media / SF Public Press — Feb 16 2012 - 11:43am

Advocates for increased prison terms say 10-year-old sex trafficking case changed conversation

This special report appeared in the Spring 2012 print edition of the San Francisco Public Press. (Read in Spanish at La Opiñon/Impremedia. Leer en español en La Opiñon/Impremedia.)

Lakireddy Balireddy shocked the Bay Area a decade ago when investigators discovered how the Berkeley landlord transported young women and girls from India for sex. He served eight years in prison. His case still inspires reformers who want to put human traffickers away for longer.This year’s campaign to get tougher anti-trafficking laws on the November ballot as a voter initiative is the latest attempt to deal with what proponents call the unfinished business of legal reform.

Bay Area agencies improvise tactics to battle trafficking

Jason Winshell, SF Public Press — Feb 15 2012 - 1:47pm

With little guidance from state leaders, local police, nonprofits fight for scarce funding

This special report appeared in the Spring 2012 print edition of the San Francisco Public Press.

Across California, local agencies have been left to scramble for limited resources and improvise strategies to fight human trafficking, a problem whose scope has yet to be defined with reliable numbers. A high-profile state task force studying California’s human trafficking problem made 46 recommendations in October 2007 but set up no mechanism to monitor progress. Attorney General Kamala Harris has begun picking up the pieces this year. But without clear guidance from the state, nine regional task forces sprung up to devise their own solutions. Their efforts have been supported mostly by federal grants. But as the funding rules become more stringent, the groups at times have been pitted against each other for resources.

Counties ready to handle state's juvenile offenders, study says

Michael Montgomery, California Watch — Feb 9 2012 - 6:03pm

County governments have invested nearly a half-billion dollars over the past 15 years to modernize juvenile lockups and now have the capacity to absorb offenders currently housed in the state’s youth prisons, if those facilities are closed, a new study contends. The report by the San Francisco-based Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice offers fresh data in support of Gov. Jerry Brown’s renewed push to shutter the state’s three remaining youth prisons as part of a historic realignment of California’s criminal justice system.

State funding ends for California libraries

Holly McDede, KALW News — Feb 6 2012 - 8:15pm

The bad news is that state funding for California libraries has been completely eliminated. There’s not really any good news about that, except that it was expected. This past July, state library funding was sliced in half, and there was a trigger amendment attached to the budget that would eliminate state funding for public libraries at midyear if the state's revenue projections were not met. Needless to say, they weren’t.

Payday loan industry: the stories

Ambika Kandasamy, SF Public Press — Feb 3 2012 - 10:44pm

Public Press writer Rick Jurgens reported on San Francisco's payday loan industry in our Winter 2011 print edition. He found that large corporations like Wells Fargo and Credit Suisse are among the biggest backers of these profitable low-finance firms. A subsequent whirl around the world of social media has revealed that payday loans are a fact of financial life for many, and some alternatives do exist. 

End of redevelopment agencies traps billions in local government loans

Kendall Taggart, California Watch — Feb 2 2012 - 10:17pm

More than 400 redevelopment agencies have been officially shuttered, leaving a trail of uncertainty – and a potentially staggering debt load. Across the state, cities and counties have loaned more than $4 billion to their redevelopment agencies over the past few decades, but according to the law governing how agencies will be dissolved, they may not be able to recover that money.

California drugmaker's HIV prevention pill sparks public health debate

Bernice Yeung, California Watch — Jan 30 2012 - 2:38pm

Foster City drugmaker Gilead recently updated its application with the federal Food and Drug Administration for approval to market its HIV treatment medication Truvada as an  HIV prevention pill. If the FDA approves Truvada for preventive use, it “would be the first agent indicated for uninfected individuals to reduce the risk of acquiring HIV through sex,” according to a company statement at the time of the filing in December 2011.

Fight brewing over historic California plan to close last 3 youth prisons

Susan Ferriss, IWATCH News — Jan 26 2012 - 11:13am

California, often a trendsetter, could make history if it approves Gov. Jerry Brown’s bid to close all state-run youth prisons and eliminate its state Division of Juvenile Justice. Much depends, though, on whether the state’s politically influential prison guards, probation officers and district attorneys can be convinced — or forced by legislators — to agree to Brown’s proposal. That won’t be an easy sell, due to both public-safety arguments and sure-to-surface haggling over just who pays to house juvenile offenders.

Amid criticism, CSU tweaks presidential salary comparisons

Erica Perez, California Watch — Jan 18 2012 - 4:57pm

Responding to criticism from the Legislative Analyst’s Office and others, California State University officials have revised a proposed list of peer universities they plan to use to help set pay for campus executives. The new list, provided to California Watch, no longer considers Temple University in Pennsylvania a peer of San Diego State University because Temple has a medical school – a feature that tends to drive up the cost and complexity of university operations. Temple paid its president $536,000 in base pay in 2009-10.

PG&E proposes charging customers to opt out of Smart Meter program

Alison Hawkes, Way Out West News — Mar 25 2011 - 4:13pm
PG&E has proposed charging residential customers to opt out of having wireless transmission of electric meters turned off at their homes. The proposal announced Thursday would allow the utility to recoup the expenses it says are associated with running an opt-out program by charging participating customers. The utility has come up with a rate program with one-time charges of either $135 or $270, plus either monthly fixed charges or a surcharge on hourly rates for gas and electric.
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