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COMMENTARY: Attacks on Assemblymember Bonta’s Appointment to Committee Chair Is Bad Journalism

The press could focus on covering priorities set by Attorney General Bonta for his office. Among his priorities are combating hate crimes and protecting civil rights, advancing criminal justice reform, protecting consumers, defending California’s environment, and enhancing public safety. These are important issues that deserve our attention, and it is disappointing to see them being overshadowed by baseless allegations of conflict of interest.

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Assemblymember Mia Bonta, the newly appointed chair of the California Assembly Budget Subcommittee #5 on Public Safety.
Assemblymember Mia Bonta, the newly appointed chair of the California Assembly Budget Subcommittee #5 on Public Safety.

By Paul Cobb

As the publisher of the Oakland Post, I am disappointed with recent mainstream media coverage and editorials trying to make tabloid news out of Assemblymember Mia Bonta’s appointment as chair of the California Assembly Budget Subcommittee #5 on Public Safety.

Assemblymember Bonta (D- Oakland), a member of the California Legislative Black Caucus, was recently appointed chair by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, and some reporters and newspaper editors have baselessly suggested that the appointment is a conflict of interest because she he married to Attorney General Rob Bonta and her committee oversees funding for the state Department of Justice.

As journalists, we have a responsibility to report on conflicts of interest and hold public officials accountable for any improprieties. However, it is equally important to exercise caution and avoid making unfounded accusations that could damage the reputation of public officials.

Speaker Rendon has stated that the Legislature’s budget process is designed with checks and balances to ensure that the best possible budget is passed. According to him, no elected official can ever personally or financially benefit from the budget process. The legislature does not set salaries or benefits for state constitutional officers such as Rob Bonta.

Bonta’s appointment as chair is a recognition that she has the skills and experience necessary to fulfill her role effectively and impartially. Rendon has expressed confidence that she will be independent in her legislative judgment.

The work of Budget Subcommittee #5 consists of hearing, reviewing, and making recommendations to the full Budget Committee concerning the Governor’s budget proposals for the courts, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the Department of Justice, the Military Department, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, and other public safety departments.

Instead of focusing on baseless claims of conflicts of interest responsible news reporters should be covering real news events occurring around the state. There are countless issues that require our attention, from the ongoing homelessness crisis to the urgent need for criminal justice reform.

The press should be covering the important work that Bonta is doing to promote public safety and reduce recidivism in her district where sadly gun violence currently disproportionately ravages communities of color. These are her constituents’ legislative priorities, and Bonta has a strong track record of fighting for their needs.

Or the press could focus on covering priorities set by Attorney General Bonta for his office. Among his priorities are combating hate crimes and protecting civil rights, advancing criminal justice reform, protecting consumers, defending California’s environment, and enhancing public safety. These are important issues that deserve our attention, and it is disappointing to see them being overshadowed by baseless allegations of conflict of interest.

Mia Bonta has made it clear that the suggestion of a conflict of interest shows a lack of understanding about the legislative budgeting process.

The budget process starts with the Governor’s proposed budget bill, introduced by the full Budget Committee chair as required by the Constitution. There are five Assembly budget subcommittees that recommend amendments to the budget bill as the principal focus of their agendas.

The Governor’s chief fiscal advisor, the Department of Finance leads on budget matters for the executive branch. Finance and departmental officials, as well as staff of the Legislative Analyst’s Office, advocates and members of the public, appear at public hearings to answer questions.

Budget subcommittees focus on specific issues in their agendas, such as how much more or less funding a division of a department needs to perform a specific function.

The state’s budget is finalized by negotiations on thousands of budget items led by the Governor, the Pro Tem, and the Speaker (a.k.a. the “Big Three”), on behalf of their branches of government. The staff of the Governor’s administration, the Senate, and the Assembly carry out these negotiations at the three leaders’ direction.

The Department of Justice – as a separate constitutional office – is not directly involved in those concluding negotiations, as the executive branch in those talks is represented by the Governor.

Mia Bonta is an outstanding Assembly member and public servant who is committed to representing her constituents with integrity.

Rob Bonta, who held the same Assembly seat before being appointed Attorney General by Gov Newsom and winning election to the office last November also serves his office with integrity.

The media focus should be on covering both of their efforts to promote public safety and make California a better place for all citizens.

I urge all reporters and editors to uphold the principles of responsible journalism and prioritize the truth and accuracy of their reporting over sensationalism and clickbait. The public deserves better than to be misled by unfounded innuendo.

We need media that is focused on reporting the real news and holding elected officials accountable for their actions and decisions.

The Black press has a responsibility to step up and do its part to foster a more informed and engaged public and not allow mainstream media and newspapers to marginalize Black leaders without pushing back especially when their reporting shows ignorance.

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Oakland Post: Week of March 15 – 21, 2023

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of March 15 – 21, 2023

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The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of March 15 - 21, 2023

To enlarge your view of this issue, use the slider, magnifying glass icon or full page icon in the lower right corner of the browser window.

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Richmond Promise Scholarship Application Deadline Closes March 17

Qualifying applicants can receive up to $1,500 annually for four years toward their post-secondary educational goals at a two-year or four-year college and/or while pursuing a Career Technical Education Certificate at any not-for-profit institution in the U.S. 

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Scholarships are available for high school graduates who want to go to a two-year or four-year college or a nonprofit vocational/technical school. Photo courtesy of Richmond Promise.
Scholarships are available for high school graduates who want to go to a two-year or four-year college or a nonprofit vocational/technical school. Photo courtesy of Richmond Promise.

Calling all high school seniors from Richmond and North Richmond: The Richmond Promise Scholarship Application period for the 2022-2023 school year closes on Friday, March 17.

High school seniors and GED students under the age of 24 who reside in Richmond and North Richmond and attend public, private, or charter schools in West Contra Costa County are eligible to apply for the scholarship.

Qualifying applicants can receive up to $1,500 annually for four years toward their post-secondary educational goals at a two-year or four-year college and/or while pursuing a Career Technical Education Certificate at any not-for-profit institution in the U.S. 

Students can also petition for an additional two years of extra funding. Throughout the process, the program provides supportive services to participating scholars from high school through college graduation, including support with identifying and applying for financial aid.

Richmond Promise launched in 2016 with a $35 million, 10-year investment by Chevron Richmond. The funds are part of a $90 million community benefits agreement between the City of Richmond and Chevron connected to the $1 billion Refinery Modernization Project.

To apply for the Richmond Promise Scholarship, go to https://richmondpromise.tfaforms.net/81. Need some help? Reach out to Richmond Promise at scholarships@richmondpromise.org. Learn more about the organization https://richmondpromise.org/

Kathy Chouteau contributed to this report

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Bay Area Native Dr. Terri Jett Honored by Indiana’s Butler University

Terri Jett arrived at Butler University in 1999 to begin her teaching career as an assistant professor of Political Science and Peace and Conflict Studies after earning her Ph.D. in Public Policy and Public Administration from Auburn University. Originally from California, Jett was unfamiliar with the Hoosier state, but was drawn to the energy of the faculty and students she met at Butler and the opportunity she saw for connecting her teaching and research with the broader Indianapolis community.

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Dr. Terri Jett poses with Butler Blue, the mascot of Butler University. Photo courtesy of Butler University Stories.
Dr. Terri Jett poses with Butler Blue, the mascot of Butler University. Photo courtesy of Butler University Stories.

By Jennifer Gunnels
Butler University Stories

Bay Area native Terri Jett was received a Distinguished Faculty Award at Indiana’s Butler University.

Terri Jett arrived at Butler University in 1999 to begin her teaching career as an assistant professor of Political Science and Peace and Conflict Studies after earning her Ph.D. in Public Policy and Public Administration from Auburn University.

Originally from California, Jett was unfamiliar with the Hoosier state, but was drawn to the energy of the faculty and students she met at Butler and the opportunity she saw for connecting her teaching and research with the broader Indianapolis community.

More than 20 years later, Jett has excelled at the work she set out to do. Last year, she was named a 2021-22 Distinguished Faculty Award recipient for her profound contributions to Butler University over the course of her career.

In many ways, Jett has been a trailblazer at Butler, including becoming the first Black female to earn tenure, and in 2020 becoming the first Black female to be promoted to full professor. Along with her teaching responsibilities as a member of the faculty, Jett has taken on numerous additional roles over the years including faculty director of the Hub for Black Affairs and Community Engagement (the Hub), member of the Steering Committee of the Race, Gender, Sexuality Studies Program (RGSS), faculty senator, and Faculty Fellow at the Desmond Tutu Peace Lab Think Tank. She also served as Department Chair from 2007-2014, a role she has currently resumed as interim while the current Chair is on sabbatical.

Jett has developed almost two dozen courses — core, departmental, honors, and even taught in our Washington D.C. Semester Program — and is always eager to seize on opportunities to take her students beyond the borders of campus. She has led students on numerous occasions to Selma, Alabama with the Honors course Voting Rights in Black and White: The Case of the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March. She says walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge is always a moving and eye-opening experience for her students that brings the Civil Rights Movement to life in new ways.

Of the many courses she has taught, Jett says one of her favorites to teach is the Politics of Alice Walker, which she teaches nearly every summer. Prior to the pandemic, Jett also offered the course several times at the Indiana Women’s Prison and was able to bring some of her Butler students to visit her class in prison.

Jett is committed to doing good things in the world herself and is known in the Indianapolis community for her service and activism. She currently serves on the board of Indiana Humanities and is appointed by Mayor Joe Hogsett to the Indianapolis Land Improvement Bond Bank Board. She also moderates a series on local PBS station WFYI called Simple Civics, which provides short civics lessons and was nominated for a Great Lakes Region Emmy in 2020 and again in 2021.

Jett says her community activism is inspired in part by a desire to demonstrate how to be an engaged citizen for her students as well as a desire to connect her teaching and research to issues happening within the community.

“And I do it because it’s fulfilling,” she said.

Though Jett has various roles within and outside of Butler, she finds satisfaction in discovering ways to integrate her teaching, research, and service. For instance, her research focuses on agriculture and food justice, and last year she leveraged her area of academic expertise and her role as Faculty Director of the Hub to partner with Indy Women in Food in hosting the organization’s first conference on Butler’s campus focused on food insecurity in the city.

“I’m thrilled when I’m able to do that,” Jett said. “All of the hats that I wear are sort of constantly engaged at the same time, and I like that I get to work like that. I’m not running from one thing to the next, I feel like my work is layered with multiple connection points.”

This article is part of a series honoring the 2021-22 recipients of the Butler University Distinguished Faculty Award. Printed with permission.

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