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E-248 - Sunday, June 30, 2019

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SacTown Talks by The Nooner


  • Food porn (feel free to skip my Nooner quasi-journaling)
  • Police records - maybe, it's possible, sometime
  • Costco shooting - in the hands of the DA
  • Out-of-state prisons no mas
  • Horse racing - it's not just Santa Anita
  • Dynamex, labor split, future of "gig" economy, and the desire by many Dems for a deal
  • Edison $$$ - is it unusual?
  • Gassy matters - fuel up today
  • Cakeday 

Happy Sunday! It's been a great and beautiful morning. I was up early, wrote for a couple of hours and then was at farmers market shortly after it opened and it was already busy. It's definitely summer time, but is still a bit of the "shoulder" season of late spring (peas) and the beginning of summer (heirloom tomatoes, green beans, shishito peppers!). Here's what's filling my kitchen for the week ahead. 

In other great news, Queen Sheba Ethiopian restaurant is re-opening tomorrow a week after an apparent arson attack! They will be serving from 11:30-9pm, according to their Facebook page. If you have never been to the restaurant at 1704 Broadway, here is the menu. They have a great veggie/vegan lunch buffet, as well as a full menu.

FOOD PORN: That's a wrap on my Anthony Bourdain tribute week, with additions of Canton and Thailand. Seven days and ten meals from around the world tied to a Bourdain episode. Sure, I shoe-horned a couple. Menudo and mangonada don't have an identifiable home, but eating the slushy tropical goodness makes me think of stepping off a fishing boat in San Felipe in Baja and because everyone claims the peasant soup menudo, we'll give it to the country's capital. Tony never went to the Canton province (Guangdong), but he did go to Hong Kong. 

Here's my journey around the world through this week (NR=No Reservations; PU=Parts Unknown):

  • NR Season 5, Episode 10: Vietnam: There's No Place Like Home - Thịt kho (Vietnamese caramelized pork belly) - homemade
  • NR Season 5, Episode 10: Vietnam: There's No Place Like Home - Bánh hỏi Cá Bông Lau Nướng (whole catfish self-wraps with thin rice noodle bundles) and Bò Tái Chanh - beef carpaccio in lime juice - Tay Giang, South Sac
  • NR Season 5, Episode 1: Mexico - Menudo - Our Lady of Guadalupe, Southside Park
  • NR Season 8, Episode 7: Baja - Mangonada - street vendor, Southside Park
  • PU Season 3, Episode 8: Thailand - Thai salmon curry - homemade
  • PU Season 4, Episode 5: Vietnam - Bún bò Huế (or just Bún bò if in Huế) spicy beef noodle soup - Home-crafted from a secret chef
  • PU Season 6, Episode 6: Ethiopia - Shrimp berbere - homemade
  • PU Season 7, Episode 4: The Greek Islands - Chicken shawarma, dolmas, hummus - Crest Cafe, Kay Street (okay, I sort of "fit" this one in for Mediterranean)
  • PU Season 9, Episode 4: Laos - Kasoy, Lao sausage - Laos Kitchen, South Sac
  • PU Season 11, Episode 5: Hong Kong - Miscellaneous Cantonese dishes - Gam Lei Sing, Southside Park

Thank you for tolerating my food nuggets this week amidst as a personal palate cleanser before diving in to Supreme Court news and the stories of the week--salacious and benign.



POLICE RECORDS: A team at the Los Angeles Times reports on the challenges members of the public (mostly media) are having accessing police use-of-force records:

"Some law enforcement organizations are charging high fees for records, destroying documents and even ignoring court orders to produce the files."

According to the article, the California Highway Patrol has yet to produce any records. SB 1421 author Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) is not happy.

"Skinner said she plans to call for oversight hearings to push for full disclosure.

“We'll have to start being more proactive about really poking them if they're dragging their feet,” she said.

Officials with many law enforcement agencies insist they’ve done nothing wrong, saying they are trying to release records as best they can. They also dispute that there is anything improper about the records that have been destroyed."

COSTCO POLICE SHOOTING: The case of the shooting on June 14 at a Corona Costco by off-duty police officer Salvador Sanchez who shot-and-killed non-verbal mentally impaired 32-year-old Kenneth French and seriously wounded his parents has now been referred to the Riverside County District Attorney's office to review whether charges should be filed. The incident happened when the son allegedly pushed the officer in a sample line at the wholesaler. 

The police report has not emerged, but the officer's attorney has stated that Sanchez was holding his 18-month-old son and was knocked to the floor and lost consciousness. The attorney says that when he regained consciousness, he awoke on the floor with his son next to him and pulled his weapon in self defense. 

The family is calling for prosecution, and stories differ among witnesses and it's unclear what surveillance video may be available of the incident. 

We talk with Assemblyman Kevin McCarty on this topic on the podcast released today. McCarty is a joint author of AB 392, one of the two major police use-of-force bills that have now become part of a compromise. 

CORRECTIONS: In his Sunday column, John Myers looks at the end of the use of costly out-of-state prisons after the final prisoners were transferred from a Mesa, Arizona private facility last week. The state had been required to do so after federal court orders on overcrowding of the California facilities.

“At one point, at the height of our overcrowding, we had nearly 10,400 inmates out of state,” said Ralph Diaz, secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. “To me, that meant 10,400 inmates away from their families, away from California. It was just a place we didn’t want to be.”

The use of private prisons — six facilities in states as far away as Mississippi — began in 2006. Inmates were shuttled away at various intervals over the 13 years that followed, a cost that was unavoidable to help resolve a problem that was years in the making.


How the inmate population came down, though, is a story of criminal justice programs that sought to limit prison time to those convicted of the most serious and violent felonies. In the year before a major realignment of criminal justice services to California’s counties, 58% of new prison sentences were for property or drug crimes."

HORSE RACING: In the MercNews, Cat Ferguson and Elliott Almond write that the problems with horse deaths at race tracks is not just a Santa Anita problem. Here's a site of a critic who tracks the deaths across the country, including the stated cause. This is the site I was reading from on What a Week last week. By his count, there have been 219 thus far in 2019. And, here's a clip from the Bryant Gumbel Real Sports episode on HBO that covered the topic, particularly on Santa Anita.

DYNAMEX: In the New York Times, Noam Schieber reports on a divide in labor over whether companies such as Uber and Lyft should be allowed to have workers that lie somewhere between employees and independent contractors. For newbies, last April, in the Dynamex v. Superior Court decision, the California Supreme Court (SCOCAL) held that a "12-prong test" that emerged over the years through wage orders by the state's Department of Industrial Relations went beyond what the Legislature had prescribed in the Labor Code. SCOCAL went on to hold that, under the current Labor Code which is a bit vague given the changes in the economy, employers would be required to follow an "A-B-C test" instead, significantly tightening up the allowance for employers to characterize someone as an independent contractor. 

Dynamex was about an old-economy document delivery service, but the ruling was seemed to threaten the "gig" industry such as Lyft, Uber, Postmates, GrubHub, and the like. 

As I mentioned, the Labor Code is a bit unclear, which allowed the wage orders that expanded the latitude of employers. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), a former San Diego Labor Fed leader and one of the most powerful legislators as chair of Assembly Appropriations, has AB 5 to codify the Dynamex decision into the Labor Code.

The California Labor Federation tweets and Lorena retweets:

"Uber & Lyft are anxious about #AB5 because the gig economy is a scam. It was built on hollow promises, undermining labor laws & exploiting workers. #AB5 is the only deterrent against greed. That's why we're 💯% #YesonAB5 & we urge #CALeg to do the same."

While Democrats are generally supporting the Labor Fed's position and only one (Adam Gray) voted against it and two (Ken Cooley and Eduardo Garcia) abstained, many members want a compromise. Gonzalez is holding strong. She tweeted this week:

"This is why we can’t write an exemption for app-based workers in #AB5.  Every job will become an on-demand app-based job.  Workers lose, taxpayers lose — large corporations win. Income inequality grows. We can’t sustain this!" 

The NYT's Schiebert writes:

"Exempting Uber and Lyft from classifying drivers as employees would provide huge savings in labor costs and allow the companies to avert what could be an existential threat to their business.

In return, Uber and Lyft — which currently classify drivers as contractors — have publicly proposed to recognize a labor organization that would represent drivers’ interests on certain issues. The companies have also discussed providing drivers with benefits like retirement saving and paid time off and setting certain pay standards.

At a meeting of union officials within the last two weeks, the executive director of the California council of the Service Employees International Union, one of the unions in discussions with Uber and Lyft, put forth a proposal along these lines, according to two people who attended the meeting.

But on a conference call on Friday with the executive director, Alma Hernández, and several S.E.I.U. officials in California, one of the union’s national leaders, Heather Conroy, appeared to reject the idea, according to a person on the call. Ms. Conroy said the union supported full employee status, including the California bill that would enshrine it.

The change in the S.E.I.U.’s apparent openness to exploring less than full employment status comes amid considerable opposition to the idea both inside and outside the union. One local in California, the United Healthcare Workers West, has threatened to oppose such a proposal publicly, according to the union’s president, Dave Regan."

The primary issue is not fixed hours or benefits, but rather a guaranteed minimum wage for hours worked. Obviously, many (most?) restaurant employees don't have a guaranteed number of hours or benefits. Could Uber/Lyft provide a "floor" hourly wage in its model? I have no idea. 

As I mentioned, many Democrats I talk to want to see a compromise and want Governor Newsom to step in to publicly push for one. These Democrats, including senators and those who voted for it in the Assembly don't want to cast such a high-profile vote against the Labor Fed. That's one political consideration. However, many Democrats fear not only a primary challenge by labor but perhaps are more fearful of the blood of a popular gig economy company on their hands.

Many of these companies argue that they can't work under the A-B-C test and many in labor are fine with that if workers are effectively earning less than the minimum wage. Taking an Uber or Lyft is considered the equivalent of crossing a picket line, even though we'll say there is some hypocrisy exercised by some members and staff. Similarly, some members found their way to Austin's famed South by Southwest music and culture festival, even though state employees are told not to travel to the Lone Star State because of its laws relating to gay rights. (I'm not suggesting public funds were used.)

Not all of the gig companies will survive. That's a fact and part of the long history of start-ups. However, if they die and can point their fingers at the state Labor Code and Dynamex, voters will blame legislators and the governor for not fixing what they don't see as a problem. Several Democratic legislators I have talked to are begging for a solution before AB 5 is codified, but they also don't want to tangle with the Labor Fed and perhaps more importantly, the tenacious and effective Lorena Gonzalez. While you naturally look at the legislators around Silicon Valley who fear being labeled anti-innovation, it hits lawmakers in all the cities where the gig economy is popular--from transportation to restaurant and grocery deliveries.

That makes an ultimate vote tough for some of the most liberal, pro-labor legislators. If Uber closes down overnight, even if only some cities, fingers will be pointed at legislators and the governor, not labor. When you are used to taking Uber or Lyft to the big game or an event like SF Pride today, you are going to be pissed at the politicians, not the seven members of the California Supreme Court or a labor union. 

The key player in this is Gavin Newsom. He is admirably restrained on most issues and not prescriptive of legislative solutions, allowing the Legislature to move through the policy development process. He's close to Silicon Valley but also had the overwhelming support of labor in the gubernatorial primary, after former labor leader Antonio Villaraigosa fell from grace during his time as mayor of Los Angeles.

We talked about this as well on last week's What a Week although it's not one to cover in a couple of minutes. We had a pod with Lorena and it was fantastic. It was also the one pod that we lost due to a hard drive crash before new redundancies Gibran has added. We're working on rescheduling the Assemblywoman. Obviously, we'd also like to get the perspective of proponents of a compromise that they characterize as necessary for the "gig" economy many of us use regularly.

The wildfire/utility legislation is the highest profile issue before the Legislature, but AB 5 may be the most political. The bill is in Labor, Public Employment and Retirement, but a hearing has not been set. The official deadline for policy committees is July 12 when summer recess begins but like with the wildfire/utility legislation, with a two-thirds vote, anything is possible.

EDISON $$$: Yesterday, I noted the large contributions from Edison International, the parent of Southern California Edison to the state's Democratic and Republican parties, which came a little over two weeks before the July 12 "deadline" for the Legislature to act on a utility financial recovery plan from wildfire costs. There was a good discussion (if that's what you call a thread) on Twitter last night about Edison's past giving.

It's true that the amounts given to the parties last week are not unlike what was given to the parties in 2018, a year that also had major legislation for utility liability cost recovery. I need to go back over the last ten years and likely won't have time to do that until tonight, as I have a usual busy Sunday. So, it may be a nothing butter. They are a big player in state politics, which may be the only noteworthy item in this week's contributions.

GASSY MATTERS: The state gas tax increases another 5.6 cents/gallon tomorrow, reports the AP's Don Thompson. 

"It’s the latest increase from a 2017 law designed to raise about $5 billion a year for road and mass transit programs.

A 12 cent-per-gallon boost came that November, and voters last year rejected a Republican-led effort to repeal the law. But Southern California voters did recall one Democratic lawmaker who helped pass the measure.

California motorists were paying an average $3.75 per gallon as of late June, far above the national average of $2.71 calculated by AAA."

CAKEDAY after the jump...


Probolsky Research



Get out there and enjoy the very beautiful day! There's a bike swap meet and festival in Southside Park and I can hear that the live band has started to rock. There's also at least one Mexican food truck in the park. It may not be a menudo day after all...

 #CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Andrew Jiang, Patrick Leathers, Jessica Levinson, and Kyle Miller!




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