Author: lafocus

Coming Soon to Cali: A “Zero-Fee” Public Banking Option

Edward Henderson | California Black Media 

On Oct. 4, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation paving the way for a new public banking system in California. 

AB 1177, known as the ‘California Public Banking Option Act’, creates a zero-penalty, zero-fee, and zero-minimum-balance platform for basic financial services. 

These services include direct deposit from employers and public benefits, automatic bill pay to registered payees, recurring payments and donations to account holders’ organizations or charities of choice, and an infrastructure to support account holders in building credit.

“AB 1177 will help Californians stay protected from overdraft fees and penalties and give them an opportunity to save money and build wealth while fighting the racial wealth gap,” said Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), lead author of the bill. 

“California is leading the nation’s public banking movement and we must keep working to provide no-fee banking services to all Californians,” he added. 

Santiago wrote the bill with the intention to help close the financial services gap that leaves 1 in 4 Californians unbanked or underbanked. Modeled after the state’s public retirement program CalSavers, the bill forms a commission of representatives from the Treasurer’s office, the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation, financial access experts and community members to oversee market analysis on how the program should be implemented. 

Proponents of public banking in California say Wall Street banks have failed low-income communities, particularly people of color. They also say the banks will provide easier access to capital that will be critical to helping small businesses and neighborhoods rebound after the pandemic. 

“Financial exclusion and scarcity have been a tool for oppression, discrimination and systemic inequity for too long. Public banking options such as BankCal, along with new technology that allows for free exchange over the internet, are urgently needed to decentralize power, privilege and financial control,” said Briana Marbury, Executive Director of the Interledger Foundation, a non-profit that advocates for standards and technologies that support an open and integrated global financial system. 

Opponents of the bill believe that government-owned banks open the door for corruption and that the cost of any mismanagement of funds will come out of taxpayers’ pockets.

  A 2015 article published by the Cato Institute critiques past public banking projects, highlighting shortcomings and failures. 

Mark A. Calabria, who was chief economist to Vice President Pence and former director of the Federal Housing and Finance Agency authored the article.

  He cites devastating losses Germany’s public banks suffered during the sub-prime mortgage crisis of 2008. 

Calabria also points to public banking failures closer to home.  

The recent history of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, quasi‐ public banks at the federal level, illustrates that mismanagement and corruption are alive and well at the intersection of the public and private,” he wrote. 

However, Trinity Tran, co-founder of the California Public Banking Alliance, argues instead that AB1177 does not create a new bank but “creates a statewide retail banking option trough which every California worker can access zero-cost services.”

While California is known for its groundbreaking legislation, it will not be the first state with a banking system like this. North Dakota’s public banking system was founded back in 1919. 

Marbury believes that the bill is only the first step toward a broader initiative that would revolutionize accessibility to financial growth and equality. 

“This is an exciting development, but not far-reaching enough. Public banking initiatives should be introduced in other states across the US to ensure equal access to financial services for the most vulnerable sectors of our population while elevating the economic health of society as a whole,” she said. 

In addition, global financial inclusion should encompass both “brick and mortar” bank access for everyone and a more inclusive internet,” she added. 

Cal Black Caucus Gives Thumbs Up to Law Reforming Courtroom Sentencing

Edward Henderson | California Black Media 

Members of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) are applauding a new law Gov. Newsom signed on Oct. 8 that modifies the state court sentencing procedure for crimes. 

Senate Bill (SB) 567 requires judges to only hand out sentences with lengths that match a number of years that reflect the median point of the possible term. 

Moving forward, according to the new law, sentences will only exceed middle term after circumstances presented to a jury are proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  

“We are now in a period of reckoning that requires us to confront the reality and interconnectedness of racism, inequality, and injustice which have permeated our institutions and deprive people of liberty, without the fundamental standards for fairness in our processes,” said Sen. Steve Bradford (D-Gardena), who is chair of the CLBC

The new law marks a correction to a ruling that was only meant to last 2 years but ended up lasting 14. 

In 2007, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) held in Cunningham v. California ruled that California’s determinate sentencing law was unconstitutional. The court found that California law impermissibly allowed judges to impose an upper/maximum term based upon facts that were never presented to a jury and deemed to be true beyond a reasonable doubt. This was a violation of the 6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution right to a trial by jury, according to the SCOTUS. 

Later that year, a temporary law was put into place allowing judges to impose any of the three sentencing terms as long as they stated a reason for giving them. The law allowed judges to apply a maximum sentence without granting defendants the opportunity to have a jury determine if the reasoning for the sentence was true or not. The law was supposed to last until 2009 when a review of the sentencing process could determine a long-term solution. 

However, the mandate ended up lasting until Gov. Newsom signed the law a little over a week ago. 

Bradford was a lead proponent of SB 567 as part of this year’s criminal justice reform efforts. 

“SB 567 makes our criminal justice system more credible and is a step in the right direction for criminal justice reform. I am grateful to Governor Gavin Newsom for signing the bill and appreciate the support of my legislative colleagues who voted for the bill because, only together, can we create a system that gives the public more confidence,” he said. 

The bill was also sponsored by California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, and Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice and supported by organizations such as Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, and San Francisco Public Defender.

“SB 567 is a huge step forward in the fight for true justice in the courtroom. The impact of long sentences on individuals and families should not be taken lightly or subjected to arbitrary terms. As a lawyer and someone who has been impacted by the loss of loved ones to incarceration, I find this bill a worthy step in the right direction,” said Joanna Billingy, Policy Manager, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children.

SB 567 will take effect on January 1, 2022.

New Cal Law Addresses Anti-Black Bias in Home Appraisal Process

Paul Austin and his wife Tenisha Tate, a Bay Area Black couple, were confident that the sale of their Marin City home would net them a sizeable profit. They had invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into renovations before putting it on the market. 

But that process turned sour when the couple discovered alarming race-based discrimination baked into the system of home appraisals. 

Austin shared that harrowing experience with the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals during its fourth meeting on Oct. 13. 

California’s Assembly Bill (AB) 3121, signed into law in 2020, created the nine-member task force to investigate the history and costs of slavery in California and around the United States. The group is charged with studying and developing reparation proposals for African Americans and recommending appropriate ways to educate Californians about the task force’s findings. 

Austin’s testimony added to the growing body of evidence that the wealth gap that exists between Black and White families in the United States was created — and has been maintained throughout history – by deep-rooted racial biases and intentional government policy at the federal, state and local levels.

“We had an appraiser come out in 2019 to appraise our home,” Austin said, talking about selling of his home, which is located five miles north of San Francisco. “She was an older White woman, and she appraised our house for just under a $1 million after we had already put in an additional $400,00 into our property. We did our homework because we should have appraised for $1.4 million. We had to fight against it.”

Austin and his wife added an additional 1,300 square feet to the home’s original 1,300 square footage, he told the Task Force

A qualified appraiser is responsible for creating a report based on a visual inspection. The property’s lot size, square footage, amenities, and number of bedrooms and bathrooms are expected to provide the basis for an unbiased valuation. 

When Austin and Tate found a second appraiser, they decided to ask a White female friend to pose as the seller. This time around, they actually netted a surprisingly higher offer of $500,000 more.

When Austin and Tate’s story went viral and made headlines in news reports around the world, other Black families emerged to share disturbing stories of how they, too, were given deceptively low estimations of their homes’ values. 

“We’re right at the beginning. The story is now being told,” Austin told the task force. “But within our community, we have not had the opportunity to galvanize people to start looking at their loans and appraisals and comparing them with others, and I mean White folks, to see what’s going on in this industry.”

On Sept. 28, Gov. Newsom signed Assemblymember Chris Holden’s (D-Pasadena) legislation Assembly Bill (AB) 948, which would address discrimination in the real estate appraisal process, such as the prejudicial treatment of Austin and his wife received. 

“Black homeowners in predominantly White neighborhoods are getting their homes appraised for far less than their neighbors,” Holden said. “It’s just another example of how bias, whether explicit or implicit, creates inequity for Black Americans. This is redlining 2.0.”

AB 948 would require the Bureau of California Real Estate Appraisals to gather demographic information on buyers and sellers of real estate property and compile data of homeowners from protected classes who file complaints based on low appraisals. The legislation also requires appraisers to take anti-bias training when renewing their licenses. 

“This bill reflects a starting point in a much-needed conversation about how discrimination is still prevalent in the home buying and selling process, and I am committed to addressing this inequity,” Holden said.

Less than one in five Black California households could afford to purchase a home valued at the statewide median-price of $659,380 in 2020, as compared to two in five White California households that could buy a home at the same price, according to the California Association Realtors (CAR).

CAR also stated in a February report that the affordability gap is “stark in expensive counties like San Francisco,” where a median-priced home of $1,650,000 was only affordable for 8% of Black households, 15% of Latinx households, and 22%of Asian households, compared to 35% of White households.

The 2019 homeownership rate in California was 63.2% for Whites, 60.2% for Asians, 44.1% for Latinx and 36.8% for Blacks, according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. 

Austin said that his family was part of the “second wave Great Migration” of Black people from the Deep South that settled in California around the 1940s. Many of them worked in the Sausalito shipyard in Marin County.

Many of the Black families that came to California during that period lived in government housing in Marin City while working in the naval shipyards in and around San Francisco. When World War II ended, Austin’s grandparents had enough money to purchase a home anywhere in Marin County.

“Due to redlining, they did not have that opportunity. Blacks weren’t able to buy land outside of Marin City,” he said. “If you look at Marin County, currently it’s arguably the richest county in California. The data also shows, when race counts, that Marin County, as a whole, has the largest disparities anywhere. It’s such a huge gap.”

Austin, who attended the Historical Black College and University, Texas Southern University in Houston, said that he doesn’t want to see his children or other Black Californians deal with the same types of issues.

“Just think that if we didn’t have the will to fight the appraisal company,” Austin said. “It’s the systems that have been created by White people for White people that continuously, negatively affect people that look like me. Now it’s time to take those steps and right the wrongs.”

Carson City Council Hires Third Party to Investigate Foul Odor

Tina Samepay

For over two weeks now, a strong odor has been flowing through city of Carson, forcing over 200 residents into hotels. The smell has been linked to hydrogen sulfide coming from the Dominguez Channel. Councilman Jawane Hilton wants residents to know the City Council is doing everything in its power to rid the city of the odor.

“It’s a county issue and we don’t know how well maintenance was being done,” says Hilton.

During last night’s city council meeting, Hilton said the council voted to allocate another $200,000 for residents to receive hotel assistance and air filters for their homes. 

Earlier reports stated that residents would be reimbursed, but Hilton says upfront assistance is available for Carson residents who present valid I.D.

Still, Hilton says there is much work to be done and information is still limited.

The Carson City Council also voted to hire a third party to conduct an independent investigation into the issue. As City Councilman, Hilton says that his main focus is making sure the concerns of residents are addressed. 

“Some of them are claiming the smell is making them sick and our concern is to make sure this does not have long-term effects on their health,” Hilton expressed.

Carson residents have reported experiencing headaches, as well as dizziness, since being exposed to the odor. County Health Officials say mild headaches are a result of inhaling low levels of hydrogen sulfide, but there are no long-term effects.

“I know that it is frustrating, and you want answers. The elected officials want answers as well, that’s why we are hiring a third party to investigate matters. If you need help please, reach out to the city,” Hilton says to Carson residents.

The City of Carson has also declared the incident a public nuisance, in an attempt to clear up County funds. 

On Monday Congresswoman Nanette Barragán also called on Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency in Carson so the city can gain access to state resources.

“A state of emergency should be declared because this is a community of color and so many areas like ours have these environmental justice issues. This issue needs to be looked at with a keen eye,” said Hilton. “Governor Newsom getting involved would help us and it would also ensure things like this will never happen again.”

Bass Campaign Celebrates Official Launch, Brings in More than $1 Million in 20 Days

Staff

Hundreds turned out for the official launch of Karen Bass’ mayoral campaign on Saturday held at Los Angeles Trade Technical College in downtown Los Angeles in a show of support for the Congresswoman whose very presence—and growing support—has energized the race just as her words electrified those in attendance.

“I am a Democrat who will work to support and strengthen the business community because I care about income inequality, and we need to make LA attractive to businesses, large and small, that provide living wage jobs so people can afford homes,” Bass said. “And we need to ensure that minority- and women-owned businesses are included and fully participate. We need to use the platform that the Mayor has, the bully pulpit and formal Mayoral authority, to celebrate our city, recruit employers, clean neighborhoods and cut red tape, so that we can attract good jobs to LA and rebuild our middle class…so that we can attract jobs that pay for mortgages, that pay for college savings, that pay for retirement and that offer dignity and stability. And in the midst of this pandemic, we have to fight for these jobs more than ever.”

Speakers and special guests at the event included Congresswoman Judy Chu, Actress Tiffany Haddish, Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Community Coalition CEO Alberto Retana and members of Rep. Bass’ family.

The Congresswoman also discussed how her career has uniquely prepared her for this moment: first as an organizer, then as a Physician Assistant working in one of the largest Emergency Rooms in Los Angeles, and finally as an elected official serving Los Angeles at the state and federal level.

“When neighbors, store owners, non-profits, teachers, parents, tenants, homeowners, activists, and City Hall work together, and work in partnership with the business community, we can change our neighborhoods — each and every neighborhood,” said Rep. Bass. “And as a former healthcare provider, I know we can reach out into and reassure even the hardest hit communities about the need to protect ourselves against COVID-19. I’ve seen it. I’ve done it—-we’ve done it together.” 

Bass has pledged to make homelessness a priority.

In 1994, we treated the emergency [of the earthquake] as an emergency,” she remarked. “We mobilized local, state, federal governments, the private and non-profit sectors. Neighbors helped neighbors. We found temporary shelter and rebuilt our city.  In record breaking time. We can fix our city again. 40,000 people on the street is an emergency. Solving this emergency — solving homelessness — will be my overwhelming top priority as Mayor. The humanitarian and public health crisis of homelessness has been decades in the making. But we can’t wait decades to solve it. It’s up to us to solve it — right now. If you elect me as Mayor, the status quo on homelessness will not stand… Los Angeles you have called me home and I am ready to serve.”

The congresswoman said she hopes her campaign will become a movement that people together from all over the city to confront the crisis at hand.

“What we showed today was a diverse coalition of leaders — public officials at every level of government, business leaders, community leaders — that are all ready to face this moment together.” 

A growing list of endorsements include the daughter of former L.A. Mayor, Lorraine Bradley.

“I have no doubt that Karen Bass is the right choice to carry on my father’s legacy,” said Bradley. And she’s going to win in the exact same way he did: by building a strong coalition of support across the entire city of Los Angeles. We’re watching history being made.”

“I have lived here my entire life, Former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told NBC4’s NewsConference host Conan Nolan. I have never seen this town so dirty, I’ve never seen crime go up so quickly… the spread of homelessness… I think there is a lack of clear leadership in this town.”

“We need somebody like her to bring us together,” he said of Congresswoman Karen Bass. “To take on these challenges. To treat the issues facing this city with a sense of urgency.”

Proof positive that the excitement and hype surrounding the campaign is real and tangible is news from campaign manager Jamarah Hayner, that in just 20 days the campaign had raised more than $1 million, more than half of it from donors contributing $100 or less.

“In less than 3 weeks, this campaign rallied hundreds of supporters from every corner of the city in person and raised more than $1 million. We actually raised more than $100,000 on the first day we announced. The overwhelming enthusiasm from voters and donors across the city is clear — Karen Bass is the clear choice to be the next Mayor of Los Angeles.” 

Faith Community Holds Prayer Vigil in Support of Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas

Lisa Collins

Over 400 pastors, community leaders and residents turned out for a Citywide Prayer Service for Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas in the wake of his 20-count federal indictment by a grand jury last week.

The two-hour long service—held at Southern Missionary Baptist Church—featured music, prayer, scripture readings and was punctuated by the heartfelt exhortations of those like Apostle Beverly “Bam” Crawford, Pastor J. Edgar Boyd, Baptist Ministers Conference president, K.W. Tulloss and Bishop Charles Blake in support of the Councilman and his family, who were not in attendance.

“We come together tonight to say Lord, we need some mercy and some help,” said Bishop Blake, who dubbed the Councilman’s dilemma as a very significant crisis that has confronted our community.  

Blake spoke of being able to call on Ridley-Thomas countless times over the last 30 years to assist with the challenges of the church and surrounding community. 

“He was there to show love and respect and to counsel and to guide, and after he came to me over these thousand times over the last 30 or 40 years, I would not dare allow this event to pass without me being here,” Blake said. 

“What does my presence mean at this meeting here tonight? It means I love Mark Ridley-Thomas,” he continued. “After doing so much for our city over so many years, there is no way we should allow him to have a challenge like this and not have the [faith] family to gather together…” 

The event was organized by Pastor Xavier Thompson with the assistance of Bishop Noel Jones in just 72 hours.

“This is not a matter of right or wrong, guilty or innocent,” stated Thompson, who serves as pastor of the Southern Missionary Baptist Church. “This is our own and we don’t abandon our family. The least we can do is come together and pray for our beloved public servant. I am aware of the 20-count federal indictment, but I’m going on record to say that is not the man I know.  The man I know is one of character. The man I know is integral who has been above board in all of his doings. 

“An indictment is not a conviction,” Thompson added. “We’re innocent until proven guilty. So, I’m motivated by love to just rally the community and clergy and this is a unified effort— an effort of solidarity.”

Co-hosts for the event included Pastors Joseph Carlos Robinson and Michael J.T. Fisher.

“We’re here tonight—clergy from all over Los Angeles—to show support to Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas,” Fisher reported. “We’re neither judge nor jury but we are supposed to be intercessors especially for the gatekeepers of our community and he definitely is one.”

Robinson agreed.

“Mark Ridley-Thomas is a legendary figure in Los Angeles,” Robinson observed. “I’m here to honor his service to our community. I’m here because he is a brother beloved. I’m here because he needs strength for this journey and I’m here because of all the years and sacrifices that he has made for us, it is time for us to return the favor.”

Pastor K.W. Tulloss noted that this was just the first in a series of actions faith leaders were considering in an ongoing effort to support Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas.

“Mark has been a part of our faith community for many years from his days with SCLC through his years in elected service and as he has stood with us, we will be steadfast in our support for him both in word and in deed.”

Ridley-Thomas Suspended by City Council; Pleads Not Guilty at Formal Arraignment

Kisha Smith

The 20-count indictment of Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy, mail and wire fraud sent shockwaves throughout L.A. county. In the Tenth District, residents who elected him last year, were left to wonder what Ridley Thomas’ legal troubles would mean for them and whether or not he would be allowed to continue his work. 

Hours ago, the City Council answered those questions, voting 11-3 to suspend the Councilman in a move that would effectively end his pay, benefits and work. The motion was introduced by Council president Nury Martinez and seconded by Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, and led to a spirited debate on the city council floor before votes were cast.

“Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas has a right to due process, and that should take place in a court of law, not in these council chambers,” stated Councilmember Curren Price. “I refuse to slaughter the reputation of someone who has a [long] track record of public service.”

Councilman Mike Bonin questioned the rush to judgement.

“We are acting … too early without consideration of our full range of options and with too much uncertainty before us,” Bonin said. “The allegations are only a week old.”

Eighth district councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson dubbed the vote as “unsettling”.

Said Harris-Dawson, “All our vote does today is make sure a 67-year old man doesn’t have healthcare and doesn’t have income during the toughest fight of his life.”

Following the vote, Ridley-Thomas issued a statement stating that he was humbled by those who supported him and disappointed by those who didn’t.

“Eleven members of this Council have stripped the constituents of the 10th District of their representation, of their voice and of their right to the services that they deserve,” the statement read. “They have removed from action a member – and his team – who together are among the most productive and effective advocates on the crisis of homelessness. I will continue fighting to clear my name, and I remain confident that such will be the case. But in the interim, the council has disenfranchised the residents of the 10th District.”

In a letter to the council a day earlier, Ridley-Thomas said that while he would not resign his seat, he would freely step back.

I fully appreciate the importance of the Council being able to conduct its business with minimal distractions,” Ridley-Thomas wrote. “With that in mind, and with deep respect for each of you, I write to let you know of my intention to immediately step back from participating in both full Council and Committee meetings.”

In the same letter, the veteran councilman maintained his innocence, stating “Throughout my entire career, I have sought to act with the utmost ethical conviction. I have every intent on fighting these outrageous allegations and expect to be fully exonerated.”

And in a U.S. Federal Court earlier today, Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas entered a not guilty plea at his formal arraignment.

“Today marks Day One of due process for Mark Ridley-Thomas,” Michael J. Proctor, the attorney for Ridley-Thomas declared. “While some have rushed to judgment, perhaps for political gain, we all win when we afford our brother and sisters the constitutional entitlement to the presumption of innocence. Our lifelong public servant Mark Ridley-Thomas said today in Court that he is innocent; I invite our community to breathe life into that right.”

Charles Drew University Officially Celebrates $50 Million Allocation

Assemblymember Mike Gipson, a native of Watts was on hand at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU) campus to commemorate the recent $50 million allocation from the State of California to the University. The event was highlighted by a check presentation from Watts native Assemblymember Mike Gipson, representative of California’s 64th Assembly District which includes the CDU campus. Dr. David Carlisle, president and CEO of CDU, along with other representatives and students from the university were on hand for the presentation.

“It gives me great pleasure to demonstrate our commitment to this great institution of higher learning with this check of $50 million,” said Assemblymember Gipson. “Let’s celebrate the future of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, an institution that matters to the people.”

The funding, which was approved by the California State Legislature will be used to support the university’s latest initiative offering a new four-year medical degree program which includes the construction of a new building to accommodate it. The overall impact of the proposed new medical education program that is pending review and approval by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education will benefit the state by increasing the number of Black and Latino medical graduates joining the healthcare workforce, with the first class slated to begin in Fall 2023.

“CDU believes in the ability of education advocacy and empowerment to change lives and create opportunities,” said Dr. Carlisle. “I stand a little bit prouder as we gather to acknowledge and celebrate one of this university’s most significant funding awards to date, a one-time $50 million allocation from the state of California to support our new four-year medical degree program.”

CDU was originally founded in 1966 to better serve underprivileged residents in the area and the funding signifies a new chapter for the university, which 55 years ago graduated nurses who went on to serve the Watts community. Today, as a Historically Black Graduate Institution (HBGI), the university’s graduates go on to serve communities across the nation. The new program is expected to educate 60 students annually.

The funding signifies the next phase for CDU’s growth as an independent, four-year medical institution. Currently, CDU shares a longstanding relationship with the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA through the Charles R. Drew/UCLA Medical Education Program, which has successfully trained 28 medical students annually since 1979. The incoming program at CDU pending review and approval by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education will be the next phase in evolving that partnership.

CDU has contributed significantly to the diversity of the nation’s healthcare workforce over the last five decades. More than 70% of the university’s graduates since 2000 are people of color and the California Wellness Foundation report estimated that one-third of all minority physicians practicing in Los Angeles County are graduates of the CDU medical school and/or residency training programs.

Gov. Newsom Signs Package of Laws Supporting Restaurants, Bars

Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom approved a COVID-19 recovery package Friday supporting small hospitality establishments around the state, including restaurants and bars. 

Signed at a restaurant in Oakland, the legislative package includes Assembly Bill (AB) 61, Senate Bill (SB) 314 and SB 389 – bills that, among other provisions, extend COVID-19 special permissions like outdoor dining and to-go licenses for alcoholic beverages. 

Funding for the package will come out of the governor’s California Comeback Plan which allots $10.2 billion in small business support. So far, the state has spent $4 billion on an emergency grant program and $6.2 billion in tax relief for small businesses. 

“These innovative strategies have been a lifeline for hard-hit restaurants during the pandemic and today, we’re keeping the entrepreneurial spirit going so that businesses can continue to create exciting new opportunities and support vibrant neighborhoods across the state,” said Newsom. 

The state support comes at a time when many Black-owned small businesses in California, including restaurants, are struggling to recover after being hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS) research, 13 % of Black-owned businesses have had to close down due to the pandemic, compared to 8% of White-owned ones. For Latino-owned businesses that number is even higher at 18 %. 

Due to the pandemic, Black businesses have experienced higher revenue loss, more layoffs of employees and less success in getting government funded relief like assistance from the federal Paycheck Protection Program. 

“We have all seen the fallout from the pandemic and recession and the effect on BIPOC people and BIPOC small businesses owners has been devastating,” said Tara Lynn Gray, Director of the California Office of the Small Business Advocate. She was speaking at an IGS event last week titled “Diversity and Entrepreneurship in California: An Undergraduate Research Symposium.”

“These are problems that have to be addressed. Access to capital continues to be a challenge,” Gray continued. “We are seeing bankers like Wells Fargo, Citi and JP Morgan Chase making significant investments in BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) small businesses, communities and individuals. That is a trend I would like to continue to see.”

Gray pointed out there are a number of state programs like the Small Business COVID-19 relief funds that prioritize providing relief funding to underserved businesses in the state. 

Authored by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Encino) and Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) respectively, AB 61 and SB 314 establish a one-year regulatory grace period for businesses operating under temporary COVID-19 licenses to get permanent expanded licenses, such as outdoor dining authorization.

The one-year grace period will begin once the pandemic emergency declaration has expired. 

“Outdoor dining has been a critical lifeline that has helped these establishments keep their doors open during these challenging times,” said Gabriel.

“AB 61 provides important flexibility so that restaurants can safely expand outdoor dining and continue to serve the communities they call home. I applaud Governor Newsom for his thoughtful leadership in protecting both public health and small businesses as we continue to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gabriel continued.

Wiener also stressed the importance of pandemic protocols for small businesses in California.

“SB 314 ensures the public can continue to enjoy outdoor dining with alcohol and that our small neighborhood businesses can continue to benefit from this change. The hospitality industry has been hit hard by the pandemic, and it’s important we make changes to modernize our entertainment and hospitality laws to allow them more flexibility and more ways to safely serve customers,” he said.  

SB 389 allows restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars that sell food to continue to sell to-go alcoholic beverages through Dec. 31, 2026.

“This is an important step toward helping our restaurants, which have been hit hard by the pandemic,” said Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa), SB 389’s author. 

“It will ensure their recovery, protecting jobs and our economy. I thank Gov. Newsom for supporting this new law,” he continued.

Economist to Help Cal Reparations Task Force Attach Costs to Injustices 

Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌ ‌|‌ ‌California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌

With seven meetings left before drafting their final report, the California’s Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals has enlisted the assistance of Dr. Darrick Hamilton, a scholar and leading national authority on race and public policy. 

He is expected to bring an economic perspective to the work the group is doing. 

The task force said it approved the appointment of the economics and urban policy professor at New York City’s The New School and charged him with helping to quantify what compensation should be for Black people living in California.

Task force member Loyola Marymount University psychology professor Cheryl Grills praised Hamilton’s selection. 

“To the extent we are setting the stage for the federal reparations process, professor Hamilton brings a level of credibility that would bode well for the ability of our work, not only for California but for the nation,” she said.

Hamilton was not present at the September virtual reparations task force meeting but his perspectives on reparations and closing the racial wealth gap were clear in a discussion with Chicago-area journalist Mark Miller during a City of Evanston RoundTable podcast. 

Reparations “grounds inequality and resource deprivation” in contrast to changing some “behavioral attitudes,” Hamilton told Miller, making the case for correcting past wrongs and getting people to understand why there should be change.

“Reparations is a retrospective, race-specific policy aimed at addressing both racial and economic justice,” Hamilton continued. “It has with it a component of truth and reconciliation, which not only provides dignity to the history that Black people have experienced. But it helps change the narratives about poverty and inequality more broadly.”

Hamilton has been involved in crafting progressive policy proposals, such as Baby Bonds, which are trust accounts for low income kids funded by taxpayers.  He is also a proponent of the Federal Job Guarantee, policy that would mandate government to provide a job for any person that needs one. Those initiatives have garnered national media attention and served as inspirations for legislative proposals across the country at the federal, state, and local levels. 

Hamilton also served as a member of the economic committee of the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force and testified before several U.S. Senate and House committees, including the Joint Economic Committee on the nation’s potential policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic-induced health and economic crises

The New School’s Henry Cohen professor of Economics and Urban Policy, Hamilton is also the founding director of the Institute for the Study of Race, Stratification and Political Economy at the university where he started teaching last January. 

Founded in 1919, the New School is a private research university in New York City.

Hamilton, Grills said, is “considered one of the country’s foremost economists,” scholars, and “public intellectuals.” He was recently profiled in the New York Times, Mother Jones magazine, and the Wall Street Journal.

In 2017, Politico Magazine featured Hamilton in its feature “50 Ideas Shaping American Politics and the People Behind Them.” He is also a member of the Marguerite Casey Foundation in partnership with the Group Health Foundation’s inaugural class of Freedom Scholars.

Task force member Jovan Scott Lewis, chair of the Department of Geography at UC Berkeley, said Hamilton’s work will involve examining slavery, social issues, unjust laws, educational discrimination, loss of wealth, and systematic oppression. 

“From an academic and intellectual standpoint, (Hamilton’s) research, is and would be for our purposes, directly relevant because we are thinking about how to spread out in specific areas,” Lewis said.

On Sept.30, 2020, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the state’s historic reparations bill into law, Assembly Bill (AB) 3121.

AB 3121, titled “The Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans,” created a nine-member commission to investigate the history of slavery in the United States, the extent of California’s involvement in slavery, segregation, and the denial of Black citizens their constitutional rights.

Members of the task force elected Kamilah V. Moore, a Los Angeles-based activist and attorney, as its chair. The group also elected Dr. Amos Brown, pastor of Third Baptist Church in San Francisco and president of that city’s NAACP branch, as vice chair.

Besides Moore, Brown, Grills and Hamilton, the other task force members are state Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena); Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Gardena); Lisa Holder, a racial and social justice attorney; and Monica Montgomery Steppe, a San Diego city councilmember.

Attorney Don Tamaki, Esq., an attorney best known for his role in the Supreme Court case of Korematsu v. the United States rounds out the nine-member panel. Tamaki overturned the conviction of Fred Korematsu who refused to be taken into custody during the imprisonment of Japanese Americans in World War II.


© Copyright 2021 - LA Focus Newspaper