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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.

Activism

Calif. Leaders Discuss Foster Care Reform Strategies for Black and Brown Youth

Before becoming a nationally recognized social justice leader and a member of California’s Mandated Reporting Taskforce, Shane Harris spent 13 years as a foster care youth after he lost both of his parents. As President of the national civil rights organization, People’s Association of Justice Advocates (PAJA), he’s aiming to solve some of the toughest challenges Black and Brown children in the foster care system face.

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Shane Harris, PAJA President and member of the California Mandated Reporting Taskforce (center) with Hafsa Kaka, Senior Advisor on Homelessness to Governor Gavin Newsom and Dr. Janet Kelly, Founder & Director of Sanctuary of Hope LA (far right) (Lila Brown CBM)
Shane Harris, PAJA President and member of the California Mandated Reporting Taskforce (center) with Hafsa Kaka, Senior Advisor on Homelessness to Governor Gavin Newsom and Dr. Janet Kelly, Founder & Director of Sanctuary of Hope LA (far right) (Lila Brown CBM)

By Lila Brown, California Black Media  

 Before becoming a nationally recognized social justice leader and a member of California’s Mandated Reporting Taskforce, Shane Harris spent 13 years as a foster care youth after he lost both of his parents. As President of the national civil rights organization, People’s Association of Justice Advocates (PAJA), he’s aiming to solve some of the toughest challenges Black and Brown children in the foster care system face.

During National Foster Care Month in May, Harris visited the Sanctuary of Hope in Los Angeles to host a roundtable meeting with current and former foster youth, many of whom, like Harris, have beat the odds and become successful professionals.

According to the federal government’s Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, there are nearly 370,000 American children and youth in foster care.

Nationally, Black children are overrepresented in foster care. According to datacenter.kidscount.org, Black children represented 14% of the total child population in the United States. However, they represented 23% of all children in foster care. Harris pointed out that one out of every four foster youth go homeless upon exiting foster care in California. Across the state, there are nearly 65,000 children in foster care, he added. Of the 65,000 children in foster care across California, 14,000 of them are Black American.

Harris also announced a new effort already underway to push for the removal of the term “case” in L.A. County when referring to foster youth during the roundtable which featured Hafsa Kaka, Senior Advisor to Gov. Gavin Newsom and Janet Kelly, the Founder and Director of Sanctuary of Hope. The session focused on solving problems foster youth face.

Sharing personal stories, insights, and various visions for policy changes, the participants discussed numerous solutions and addressed specific concerns about ongoing challenges with the foster care system.

One top priority was how to close the foster care to homelessness pipeline for the disproportionate number of Black and Brown children in LA County’s and the state’s foster care system.

“When you see the direct connection between the disproportionate rates of Black children in foster care and the disproportionate rates of Black people in the general homeless population, there is a very clear connection there in which our foster youth are coming out of care,” stated Harris during opening remarks.

Kaka said the governor has been intentional about making sure that foster children are homeless prioritized as the state addresses homelessness.

“This is a critical moment for foster care,” said Kaka. “The systems that are working together are looking at leveraging federal, state and local funds.”

Harris said he has already begun efforts in San Diego County to drop the word “case” when referring to homeless youth.

“We are asking for a 90-day public input period, in which the county CEO and leadership can facilitate discussions with the community on replacement terminology. There’s plenty of ideas,” Harris elaborated.

Kelly said a majority of the youth who go through the Sanctuary of Hope program are young people who have experienced some form of housing instability or housing crisis.

“The goal of the work that we do is really centered around helping young people leave here with leadership skills and other forms of what we call protective factors in order for them to continue on with their stabilization journey and become loving, caring and active citizens in this world,” Kelly said.

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Activism

U.S. Rep. Kamlager-Dove Leads Discussion on Improving Black Student Learning, Test Scores

Kamlager-Dove, who represents a district that covers parts of Los Angeles County, hopes that ideas shared at the event can be incorporated into models that can impact other regions across California, where Black students continue to fall behind their peers of other races and ethnicities.

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Congresswoman Kamlager-Dove (CA-37) moderates a panel including Dr. Kortne Edogun-Ticey, Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Education during Roundtable on Equity in Education for Los Angeles Unified School District (R to L) beside Kamlager-Dove Dr. Robert Whitman, Educational Transformation Officer, Los Angeles USD; Dr. Kortne Edogun-Ticey, Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Education; Keith Linton, Founder, Boys to Gentlemen, Dr. Pedro Noguera, Distinguished Professor and Dean, University of Southern California Rossier School of Education and LAUSD student Jonathan McGee. Photo by Lila Brown (CBM).
Congresswoman Kamlager-Dove (CA-37) moderates a panel including Dr. Kortne Edogun-Ticey, Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Education during Roundtable on Equity in Education for Los Angeles Unified School District (R to L) beside Kamlager-Dove Dr. Robert Whitman, Educational Transformation Officer, Los Angeles USD; Dr. Kortne Edogun-Ticey, Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Education; Keith Linton, Founder, Boys to Gentlemen, Dr. Pedro Noguera, Distinguished Professor and Dean, University of Southern California Rossier School of Education and LAUSD student Jonathan McGee. Photo by Lila Brown (CBM).

By Lila Brown, California Black Media

On April 8, U.S. Congressmember Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-CA-37) moderated a roundtable focused on Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) strategies to improve Black student performance in classrooms.

Kamlager-Dove, who represents a district that covers parts of Los Angeles County, hopes that ideas shared at the event can be incorporated into models that can impact other regions across California, where Black students continue to fall behind their peers of other races and ethnicities.

Discussions at the event centered on LAUSD’s Black Student Achievement Plan (BSAP) and other educational initiatives aimed at enhancing learning and boosting test scores.

“The Black Student Achievement Plan is unique in that it takes a community-centered approach to uplifting Black students,” said Kamlager-Dove during the event held at John Muir Middle School in Los Angeles.

“We must implement culturally responsive education in the classroom to challenge our students academically while giving them a sense of purpose,” she continued.

In 2023, nearly 70% of Black children in California fell below a passing mark on the state standardized English Language Arts exam, and only about 20% of those students were performing at grade level based on their scores on the math assessment test.

A variety of public education experts joined Kamlager on the panel, including Dr. Kortne Edogun-Ticey, Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Education; Dr. Robert Whitman, Educational Transformation Officer at LAUSD; Dr. Pedro Noguera, Professor and Dean at the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education; and Keith Linton, founder of the non-profit Boys to Gentlemen. 

Jonathan McGee, a student who sits on the BSAP Student Advisory Council, also spoke during the panel.

The BSAP was approved by the LAUSD Board of Education in February of the 2020-21 school year. Funds have been earmarked to address the longstanding disparities in educational outcomes between Black students and their non-Black peers. Dating back to the landmark case, Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kan., in which the U.S. Supreme Court declared that segregated schools were unconstitutional, positive outcomes for Black students continue to lag behind district and national averages for their non-Black counterparts.

Edogun-Ticey spoke about broader investments the federal government is making in education that directly impact Black students through The White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans.

‘This administration did not shy away from the idea that we need resources for support which means billions of dollars in investment for HBCUs,” she explained.

BSAP strategies include partnering with Black families and local community; supporting the implementation of culturally and linguistically responsive and anti-racist practices; offering wrap-around support structures; and highlighting experiences that uplift the contributions of the Black community as motivation and models to develop positive Black student identity. Additionally, the BSAP provides increased staffing to support Black students’ academic and social-emotional needs.

“School districts across the country must push back against attacks on marginalized students by implementing programs like the BSAP, which should serve as a model for future initiatives,” Kamlager said.

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Activism

Legislature Advances, Renumbers, Sen. Bradford’s Reparation Freedmen’s Agency Bill

The bill, formerly entitled SB 490, moves on to the Committee on Governmental Organization.  SB 1403 would create a new state agency responsible for the administration and oversight of reparations as determined by the Legislature and Governor. 

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Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Inglewood) and Los Angeles-based attorney Kamilah Moore (right), the chairperson of the task force during its two-year study.
Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Inglewood) and Los Angeles-based attorney Kamilah Moore (right), the chairperson of the task force during its two-year study.

By California Black Media

On April 9, the California Senate Judiciary Committee voted 8-1 to advance Sen. Steven Bradford’s reparation legislation, Senate Bill (SB) 1403, or the “California American Freedman Affairs Agency” bill.

The bill, formerly entitled SB 490, moves on to the Committee on Governmental Organization.  SB 1403 would create a new state agency responsible for the administration and oversight of reparations as determined by the Legislature and Governor.

Creation of the agency is one of more than 115  recommendations the nine-member California reparations task force included in its final report. The bill would require the agency to determine how an individual’s status as a descendant of an enslaved person in the United States would be confirmed.

SB 1403 would require proof of an “individual’s descendant status” to be a qualifying criterion for benefits authorized by the state for descendants, as stated in the bill’s language. To reach these goals, SB 1403 would mandate the agency to be comprised of a Genealogy Office and an Office of Legal Affairs.

In 2020, California established the first-in-the-nation task force to study reparations for African Americans.

Los Angeles-based attorney Kamilah Moore, the chairperson of the task force during its two-year study, was at the State Capitol to address the members of the Judiciary Committee as an expert witness. The attorney and scholar said the bill aims to serve individuals based on lineage rather than race.

“Today, I advocate with a sense of urgency and purpose for the passage of SB 1403, a groundbreaking bill poised to establish the California American Freedmen’s Agency,” Moore told the panel. “This agency symbolizes a crucial stride towards reparative justice, particularly for those whose lineages trace back to enslaved ancestors.”

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