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Disproportionate Numbers of Blacks and Latinos Lose Driver’s Licenses Because Of Unpaid Tickets

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Maura Dolan, L.A. Times

 

African Americans and Latinos in California are more likely than others to lose their driver’s licenses because of unpaid tickets and then to be arrested for driving with suspended licenses, according to a report released Monday. 

 

The report, by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, examined U.S. Census Bureau data, records from the California Department of Motor Vehicles and information from 15 police and sheriff’s departments in the state to document by race the impact of unpaid traffic fines.

 

“Individuals who cannot afford to pay an infraction citation are being arrested, jailed and prosecuted, and are losing their licenses and their livelihoods,” the report said. “The communities impacted by these policies are disproportionately communities of color.”

 

Black drivers were found to be arrested at higher rates than whites for driving with licenses suspended because of unpaid tickets, the report said. The highest suspension rates in 2014 were found in poor neighborhoods with large percentages of black and Latino residents.

 

In Los Angeles County, Black people make up 9.2 percent of the population but accounted for 33% of those arrested for driving with a suspended license from September 2013 to September 2015, the report said.

 

Whites represent 26.8% the county but accounted for only 14.8 percent of those arrested at that time for driving with a suspended license. During that time, 85 percent of 20,000 people arrested by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department for driving with suspended licenses were black and Latino, according to the report.

 

In San Francisco, 5.8 percent of the population is Black, but 48.7 percent of those arrested for traffic warrants in 2014 and 2015 were African American. Whites make up 41.2 percent of the city’s population but accounted for only 22.7 percent of the arrests, according to the lawyers’ group.

 

The report, based on data gathered in the last year, follows an earlier study by the group that found more than 4 million Californians had their licenses suspended for unpaid tickets since 2006. The cost of tickets soared during the state’s budget crisis because a variety of fees were added to the fines to pay for state programs.

 

In response to the earlier report, the state created a traffic ticket amnesty program to make it easier for drivers to get their traffic fines reduced and licenses reinstated. Court leaders also ended requirements that required drivers to pay the tickets before they could contest them.

 

“While these actions represent significant progress, they fail to adequately address the underlying racial and economic injustices of California’s debt collection and license suspensions policies and traffic court practices,” the new report said.

 

It is a misdemeanor in California to drive with a suspended license, and judges can issue warrants for drivers who fail to pay a ticket or appear in court to contest it.

 

On Tuesday, a state Senate committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on a bill that would prevent the DMV from suspending licenses because of an inability to pay or failure to show up in court to contest tickets.

 

Kacey Campbell, 34, an African American disabled veteran, was among the millions of Californians who lost his license because of traffic debt. A ticket issued in Compton in 2006 for failing to wear a seat belt was followed by a ticket in Los Angeles for driving with a suspended license. The fines eventually ballooned to $5,000, and Campbell didn’t have a license for about eight years.

 

Campbell said in an interview that he tried to resolve the tickets at L.A. County Superior Court. “The best I came out with was 800 hours of community service and a $200 fine,” he said.

 

At the time, he and his family were living in a homeless shelter, he was receiving therapy for post traumatic stress disorder and his disabled premature daughter was in the hospital, he said. He did not do the community service.

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Business

Gov. Newsom Signs Package of Laws Supporting Restaurants, Bars

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

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Oakland, CA, USA February 21, 2011 Folks enjoy a sunny day with al fresco dining at the historic Last Chance Saloon, made famous by author Jack London, in Oakland, California/ iStock

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.

 

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Advice

Commentary: Tips for Staying Safe (Emotionally) as Pandemic Drags On

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the Delta variant have fundamentally changed many of our lives, the way we live and the manner in which we interact with each other, and how we live, work and play together.   

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African woman meditating sit at desk in front of pc, serene mixed-race female closed eyes folded fingers mudra symbol do exercise practising yoga reducing anxiety stress positive frame of mind concept/iStock

Many of us are tired, stressed and impatient having to live our lives under this seemingly never-ending pandemic. 

In early spring, many of us were hopeful that COVID-19 was coming to an end.  We began making plans for the summer, from visiting family and friends to attending concerts, plays, planning for vacations and special milestones, and basically “just returning to normal life activities.”  

However, as life would have it, the Delta variant appeared. We were again confronted with the inability to control most aspects of our lives.  In fact, most recently, scientists have purported that we may expect additional variants for years to come.

According to the California Department of Public Health, in February 2021, only 2% of Black Californians were vaccinated. However, as of October 5, 4.2 % of all Black Californians have received at least one dose of vaccine. Representing about 6 % of California’s overall population, we as a community remain behind on our vaccination rate.   

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the Delta variant have fundamentally changed many of our lives, the way we live and the manner in which we interact with each other, and how we live, work and play together.   

This pandemic has reinforced that there are so many aspects of our lives that we cannot control. And anytime we cannot control our lives and/or our environment, we tend to feel helpless which leads to anxiety and possibly depression.  

So, what can a person do, when life does not go as you planned and are impatient for this pandemic to end?  Here are some tips that have been recommended by the experts:

  1. I know this might sound cliché, but recognizing and understanding your feelings, whether you are sad, angry, stressed, or frightened. Accept, do not negate, how you feel.  
  2. The ability to bounce back and adapt to difficult situations is crucial to wellness.  You have to believe in yourself, your ability to be strong and to try your best – relying on various proven self-care methods — to stay positive.
  3. Try having an attitude of gratitude.  Think about just a few little things or events that are going well in your life daily and in the life of your family and friends.
  4. When you feel overwhelmed…. just breathe…Yes, literally, just breathe in through your nose, hold it and exhale through your mouth a few times or meditate by remembering a verse, phrase, poem, or visualizing a tranquil place for just a few seconds. Still yourself.   
  5. Look back on the good times that you have had and treasure those memories.
  6. Plan a reasonably safe event you can look forward to in the near future that will bring you joy or fulfillment. 
  7. Stop thinking negative.  It’s difficult when life feels as if it’s spiraling out of control but find ways to prove that your negative thoughts are either wrong or that the sky will not fall.  Remind yourself that life and circumstances can and do change.  Turn those negative thoughts into positive affirmations.  Have faith and confidence. 
  8. With so many things going on that are out of our control and often make us feel helpless, focus on what you CAN control in your life.  
  1. Take care of yourself. Exercise, even walking 20 minutes a day, eating healthy, sleep on a regular schedule, turn off electronic devises at least one hour before bed, avoid alcohol and substance use, especially before bedtime, connect with community or faith-based organizations, and/or reach out to your local mental health provider, employee assistance program.

Lenore A. Tate, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Sacramento, California. She specializes in neuropsychology, behavioral health and geriatrics.

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Events

Ella Baker Center Turns 25

Community members will have the opportunity to join the celebration virtually or in person at Restore Oakland at 1419 34th Ave, Oakland, CA 94601.

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Michelle Alexander/Photo via pbs.org

Alicia Garza

Co-founder of Black Lives Matter (BLM) Alicia Garza and Michelle Alexander, acclaimed author of “The New Jim Crow,” will join youth justice leader Xochtil Larios to discuss a collective vision for liberation at the Ella Baker Center’s 25th Anniversary Celebration, 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 27.

After 25 years of working to empower Black and Brown communities and fighting for a world without prisons and policing, the event will seek to inspire organizers, community members and changemakers to reflect on past victories in the movement for social justice and imagine how to continue moving toward a world based on justice.

The event will include entertainment by musicians, poets as well as comments by founders of the Ella Baker Center, Dianna Frappier and Van Jones. Community members will have the opportunity to join the celebration virtually or in person at Restore Oakland at 1419 34th Ave, Oakland, CA 94601.

The in-person event will be held outdoors and available to vaccinated guests only. 

To RSVP for the virtual event, please email ashley@ellabakercenter.org by Oct. 14 

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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