The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

July 30, 2010
Math Council supports Common Core; will State Board?

The California State Board of Education prepares to vote on replacing the state's existing academic standards for reading and math with the Common Core State Standards, organized by 48 governors and chief state school officers.

In a strong statement Friday, the California Mathematics Council (representing 10,000 teachers and parents) is supporting the Common Core math standards.

CMC president Sheri Willebrand writes that the current system, aimed toward building toward algebra for all in 8th grade, has "too many standards, lack of focus and coherence, and the lack of 8th grade standards for students not prepared to take algebra."

She continues:

Our standards may have been considered world class 15 years ago, however knowledge about mathematics instruction and how children learn has grown dramatically.

In a devastating critique of the current math standards, she notes that,

The longer students take math, the worse they do regardless of ethnicity.

In 2008-2009, 54 percent of all 8th graders took the Algebra California Standards Test (CST); only 44 percent of these students scored proficient or above.

Concurrently, 13 percent of 11th graders and 26 percent of 10th graders took the Algebra CST with only 8 percent and 11 percent of those students scoring proficient or above respectively.

The real issue is that you have to prepare students for Algebra I; you can't just dump them there and expect them to succeed - or have them repeat the course over and over, as Willebrand notes:

The current options do not address the fact that it is children of color, children of low income and children who do not speak English who experience limited access to or success in the gateway course for college and career success. Algebra 1 ad nauseam is not an option...Genuine equity unites words and actions in the development of a plan that assures our students emerge from the algebra class successful and ready to learn more mathematics.

Willebrand concludes:

The State Board of Education adoption of the Common Core State Standards is the next logical step towards improvement in mathematics education for our children. The California Mathematics Council stands ready to support all aspects of the implementation of the Common Core Standards.

On Monday, we'll find out whether the naysayers or those favoring the Common Core prevail with the State Board of Education.

July 27, 2010
A challenger steps up in Sac City Unified versus Roy Grimes

For a while it looked like no candidate would step forward to challenge Roy Grimes in the Area 6 seat (covering the Pocket area, and including Kennedy High School, Sam Brannan Middle School and six elementary schools) for the Sacramento City Unified school board. We took note of this in a June 25 editorial.

But a few days before the Aug. 6 filing deadline, one candidate has stepped forward to challenge incumbent Roy Grimes.

Robert Bartron describes himself as a non-politician who is putting his name on the ballot. He doesn't yet have a campaign organization behind him.

He retired on June 30 as recruitment manager for the California Troops to Teachers Program. He also served as director of recruitment for SEARCH California, helping engineers, scientists and technicians who are leaving industry to enter the classroom as math and science teachers.

He attended John Sloat and Freeport Elementary schools and then Goethe Junior High (now Rosa Parks Middle School.) He graduated from Kennedy High School, Class of 1969, and from the U.S. Naval Academy, Class of 1973.

A Navy pilot and director of Navy officer recruiting, he served in the military for 25 years, retiring as a U.S. Navy Commander in 1995. He turned to higher education, serving as director of corporate relations at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, the nation's oldest technological university. He was Director of the Albany, New York, branch of the ITT Technical Institute, a two-year proprietary school.

He returned to Sacramento in 2002, where he took up recruiting for the Troops to Teachers program.

His wife, the former Mary Renfree, also is a Kennedy High School grad. She's been a teacher for more than 25 years, currently working as the head of tutoring programs and a reading specialist for Mercy Education Resource Center.

In his blog, Bartron states why he is running:

I am running because I feel we should have a choice when selecting our representative from the Pocket area. The incumbent has been on school boards for 28 years (20 years on the Sacramento County school board and the past 8 years on the Sacramento City Unified school board.) During this time our schools and students have declined in performance. I feel we must make a change if we do not want to continue this decline.

Bartron says he's focused on issues of teacher performance, but believes test scores should not be the measure of accountability.

Nine more days to go before candidate filings close...The more school board candidates, the merrier.

July 20, 2010
Cyclists wonder: Will Mark Williams' career swerve into a ditch?

2W20WILLIAMS_embedded_prod_affiliate_4.jpgIf Mark Williams' latest foot-in-mouth episode ends up costing him jobs and income - and that remains to be seen - the NAACP will declare victory.

And so will another group - bicyclists.

Long before Williams became the disgraced mouthpiece of the national tea party movement, and long before he mocked the NAACP and suggested that African Americans would rather be enslaved than work for their own betterment, the former Sacramento radio shock-mock got in trouble by suggesting that motorists should swerve at bicyclists.

Williams, a host for KFBK, made the comment on Feb. 24, 2005 during a guest appearance on KSTE in Sacramento with co-host Jamie Coffee. The comment stirred up cycling groups nationwide, partly because Clear Channel radio personalities had previously made comments that suggested that motorists should endanger cyclists. Those comments prompted a settlement with the League of American Bicyclists and an apology from Clear Channel's CEO.

After Williams and Coffee gave Clear Channel another black eye, prompting complaints from the Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates, KSTE suspended Williams and Coffee, issued another apology and started airing public service announcements on bicycle safety.

"Both station management and the talent understand the importance of automobile and bicycle safety. In fact, Regional Vice President/Market Manager Jeff Holden is an avid cyclist," wrote Omar Thompson, Clear Channel's VP of Marketing & Communications, in a letter to SABA.

Quoted today in a story in The Bee, Tea Party fundraiser Sal Russo came to Williams' defense, saying "he doesn't have a racist bone in his body."

"Mark is the quintessential talk-show host of the 20th century who thrives on controversy and contentiousness," Russo said. "That's what drives his ratings."

Sorry Sal, but Williams isn't just about controversy. He has a pattern of repeatedly making reckless and offensive comments, which prompts him to self-destruct, apologize or lash out. Because of apologists like Russo, he can easily rebrand himself and find another forum for his bile.

I'm surprised Russo would even attempt to defend him. But then again, perhaps Russo hasn't ever been run off the road by a motorist with malice.

July 20, 2010
Sacramento council panel moves ahead on 'crash tax'

The "crash tax" lives.

The Sacramento City Council's law and legislation committee agreed late this afternoon to forward to the full council a proposal to charge out-of-town motorists who have wrecks inside the city limits.

The Bee editorial board has come out against the idea. It could gouge unfortunate drivers and make Sacramento an unwelcome place for visitors.

But the council committee called it a cost recovery vehicle for the fire department, though some council members had questions about how it would be implemented. The full council is expected to take up the issue in early August, said Interim Assistant City Manager Patti Bisharat.

The fees would be on a sliding scale, based on the type of services provided and the cost of personnel and equipment at the scene.

Any time the fire department shows up, the charge would be $435. If oil or radiator fluid is cleaned up, it would another $60. If there's a vehicle fire, it would be $680 total. If firefighters have to use the "jaws of lie" to get people out, the charge would be $1,875 total. And if a helicopter is called in to transport someone injured, it would be $2,275.

The city hopes to reap about $1 million a year.

July 20, 2010
Ami Bera runs as an outsider but raises money like a pro

Like any incumbent politician, Rep. Dan Lungren has many advantages. The ability to raise money from insiders, and use his office to send letters and emails to voters back home are three that come to mind.

But challengers have certain advantages, too, as Lungren's Democratic challenger Ami Bera sought to make clear in a visit to The Bee's editorial board today. Bera is hoping that voters' disgust with incumbents will apply to Lungren, a Republican from Gold River who has been in and out of office since 1978.

"Voters are looking for something different," said Bera, who is making his first run for elective office. Here is one of our past pieces on the Bera-Lungren campaign.

Bera, a physician who is a former dean of admissions at UC Davis' medical school, took a swipe at Lungren for recently voting with other Republicans against a new extension of unemployment benefits, while having voted to grant congressional pay raises in past years.

Lungren voted against the extension of unemployment benefits after concluding it would worsen the federal deficit. That stand may make some sense inside the Republican congressional caucus back in Washington. But that position has real-life implications in California where unemployment sits at 12.3 percent -- as the Republican U.S. Senate candidate perhaps now understands.

Challengers often find fodder in votes cast for pay raises and other perquisites of office. Pay hikes generally come as part of legislation covering many topics. Bera's campaign counts six instances dating back to the 1980s when Lungren cast votes that led to pay hikes.  Most recently, however, Lungren voted to suspend a pay raise set to take place this year.

Congressional members are paid $174,000 annually.

Bera said that if he is elected, he would turn down pay raises so long as there is a federal budget deficit.

Unlike many first-time candidates, Bera is raising money like a pro, outpacing Lungren in the race for the 3rd Congressional District. In the latest campaign disclosure reports filed last week with the Federal Elections Commission, Bera disclosed he had $1.1 million in the bank, while Lungren had $660,000.

Much of Bera's money initially came from other Indian-Americans. While he still collects that money, Bera is getting significant backing from the Democratic establishment, which believes he has a legitimate shot at knocking off Lungren. 

The AFL-CIO and the American Federation of Teachers each gave him $10,000 in the most recent quarter. Bera received $5,000 from political action committees representing family physicians and radiologists, and from the pro-abortion rights organization, NARAL.

Lungren is tapping many of the usual donors who give to incumbents: $6,000 from political action committees representing Comcast and Chevron, and $1,000 from the world's larst cigarette maker, Altria.

Sacramento-area developer Angelo G. Tsakopoulos gave Lungren $4,800. Sacramento lobbyists also chipped in, too. Robert W. Naylor gave him $1,050 and Bev Hansen gave him $1,000.

July 19, 2010
UC Davis Chancellor cautious regarding online degrees

The editorial board met with University of California, Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi this afternoon in a wide-ranging recap of her first year on campus.

Last year, she spoke to the board about the challenges of fulfilling the public mission of the university in an era of reduced state funding. "That mission," she said, "has been compromised by the inability to fund it. ... The struggle is to keep quality in place and to keep it affordable."

That challenge remains.

Katehi.jpgOn Monday, she handed out a pie chart showing that only 21 percent of UC Davis operating funds came from the state in 2008-09. Public universities that once were publicly funded and free to students, she said, now "are only partially supported by the state...but the mission remains the same: access to excellence."

The more the state cuts, she acknowledged, the more pressure there is to raise funds from other sources. She, herself, spends at least one day a week fundraising out of the office.

She responded to a question on action last week by the University of California Board of Regents and UC President Mark Yudof endorsing the idea of developing a fully online undergraduate degree, which UC Berkeley Law School Dean Christopher Edley had said would make a UC degree "available to people in Kentucky and Kuala Lumpur."

Chancellor Katehi made it clear she does not support the idea of "an education without placing a foot on campus." But she could support a "hybrid model" with parts of a course online and part in the classroom, which she believes allows more students to have access to courses.

She thought there may be some areas where students could do a full degree online, "but not a bachelor's degree." She said that UC Davis "will be cautious" and "will not be the first" in pursing online degrees. She said UC Davis would look at a hybrid model.

The editorial board will explore some of the chancellor's other ideas in future editorials. Stay tuned.

July 19, 2010
Clean energy program backers ask Obama for help

California members of Congress are going all the way to the top -- the White House, that is -- in defense of a clean energy program that has hit a major roadblock.

In a letter today, they urge President Barack Obama to fight for Property Assessed Clean Energy program, under which homeowners get financial assistance to install solar panels or make other energy efficiency improvements and the repayments are tacked on to property tax bills. California is the national leader, with programs underway in places including Placer and Sonoma counties and planned expansions in much of the rest of the state.

Of course, they're preaching to the choir -- the Obama administration supports the program and put millions in stimulus money behind it.

It's the Federal Housing Finance Agency that has put the kibosh on it, saying that the program raises too much risk for mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The ruling "will have a severe impact on our economy, our local communities and our goal to move to a clean energy economy and establish energy independence," says the letter, signed by 60 members of Congress, led by Rep. Doris Matsui of Sacramento and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown sued last week to protect PACE, and the letter urges Obama to "explore all of your available options to quickly restore and resolve the uncertainty surrounding the PACE program."


July 14, 2010
California officials go to the ramparts for solar program

California officials, who have been out front on helping homeowners install solar panels, are not giving up without a fight.

The programs, which give low-interest loans that are repaid through property tax bills, are in jeopardy because mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have announced they won't guarantee loans for participating homes.

Placer and Sonoma counties have been leaders, but officials hoped to expand to Sacramento and much of the state.

The Bee editorial board has urged California officials to go to court or Congress if necessary to protect the clean energy initiative, which also promises to create green tech jobs.

Today, Attorney General Jerry Brown filed a lawsuit against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for blocking the Property Assessed Clean Energy programs. "As the nation struggles through the worst recession in modern times, California is taking action in federal court to stop the regulatory strangulation of the state's grass-roots program that is spreading across the country," Brown said in a statement.

The full news release is here, including a link to the lawsuit.

Jenine Windeshausen, Placer's treasurer-tax collector who runs the county's PACE program, applauded the lawsuit to overturn what she called "an example of bureaucracy at its worst."

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac "have effectively derailed what is one of America's most innovative and effective job creation and conservation initiatives," she said in a statement, adding that "federal bureaucrats -- unelected and unaccountable to taxpayers -- have acted against the stated goals of the Obama administration and Republicans and Democrats across America."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also added his support to the lawsuit.

"By making it more affordable for Californians to invest in energy efficiency, PACE programs offer great benefits to California," he said in a statement.

"Achieving energy independence has always been a top priority in my administration, and it would be preposterous to do away with a program that will create jobs, provide energy savings and benefit our environment. That is why I urge a quick resolution to this lawsuit to allow the continuation of PACE programs in California."

At the same time, Congresswoman Doris Matsui, a Sacramento Democrat, signed a letter calling on the acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to preserve the PACE programs -- or resign.

"We stand ready to work with you to help fulfill the promise of PACE financing and to do so in a manner that helps our nation [and] homeowners and that provides the proper safeguards for mortgage lenders. However, if you fail to do so, we ask for your immediate resignation," says the letter, which was also signed by California Reps. Mike Thompson, Michael Honda, Zoe Lofgren and Anna Eshoo.

UPDATE: The feds are not backing down either.

"In keeping with our safety and soundness obligations, the Federal Housing Finance Agency will defend vigorously its actions that aim to protect taxpayers, lenders, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac," FHFA Acting Director Edward J. DeMarco said in a statement today.

"Homeowners should not be placed at risk by programs that alter lien priorities and fail to operate with sound underwriting guidelines and consumer protections. Mortgage holders should not be forced to absorb new credit risks after they have already purchased or guaranteed a mortgage."


July 14, 2010
How would you make the State Fair bigger and better?

The California State Fair started its 19-day run today under brilliant sunshine, but it's future is somewhat cloudy.

It is facing some big challenges to stay relevant and financially viable in the 21st century. This year, fair officials have moved up the schedule by a month and slashed food prices by 25 percent in hopes of reversing a slide in attendance.  

Here's a reminder that you can join the Conversation on your ideas to make the fair more exciting and inviting.

July 14, 2010
K Street vote another reason to break ad hoc addiction

The City Council's vote Tuesday night on K Street redevelopment provided yet more evidence why the council should break the habit of resorting to ad hoc committees to tackle controversial issues.

The four members of the ad hoc panel on K Street -- Mayor Kevin Johnson and council members Steve Cohn, Rob Fong and Ray Tretheway -- all supported a more sweeping, costly proposal from Rubicon Partners for the blighted blocks in the heart of downtown Sacramento.

The five council members not on the ad hoc -- Lauren Hammond, Kevin McCarty, Bonnie Pannell, Sandy Sheedy and Robbie Waters -- voted against that proposal --and several of them groused that they felt sidelined from the debate.

The last thing this council needs is another reason to be divided.

The mayor acknowledged that the K Street ad hoc, which he appointed in May, muddled the process. He urged the council to reconsider how it uses ad hocs.

The ad hoc panels are also bad for open government because unlike standing committees, they are not required to meet in public.

If the K Street vote is the impetus for reining in ad hocs, that would be more than welcome.

July 12, 2010
Toon Tease
Here's a preview scribble for tomorrow morning's editorial cartoon.  Any guesses? 
Be sure to check out the opinion pages tomorrow to see the finished version.


July 8, 2010
For LeBron James, more cold cash in hot Miami




The rumor mill is churning with reports that NBA superstar LeBron James will end the suspense that's killing us by announcing shortly after 6 p.m. today that he's going to the Miami Heat.

US magazine is reporting that James has already reserved cabanas at a swanky South Beach hotel for a blowout celebration this weekend. If he picks Miami, James would get to enjoy that breezy South Florida lifestyle, could build his worldwide brand among the celebrity set and would complete a rather imposing on-the-court trio with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.

The Tax Foundation says James (shown in a Getty Images photo above) has another prime motivation: cold, hard cash.

Because Florida does not have a state income tax, James would actually come out ahead, even though his current team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, could offer a bigger contract for more years, writes Aaron Merchak, a visiting scholar at the foundation. (His full article is below.)

So no matter how James explains his decision -- and particularly if he says it's not about the money -- it's about the money.

July 6, 2010
Lungren: Obama suit against Arizona immigration law 'dumb'

AA_LUNGREN6.JPG It's fair to say that Rep. Dan Lungren is no fan of President Barack Obama's approach on immigration.

Actually, that would be an understatement.

The Republican from Gold River (shown at left at a forum in Rancho Cordova last August) says he wants comprehensive reform that accelerates citizenship for those who entered the U.S. legally, that increases the number of visas for highly skilled workers and that strengthens border security.

But he says the president has "poisoned the well" by talking about a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants already in the country -- what many in the Republican Party consider amnesty.

Obama's first major speech on the subject last week was very disappointing, and makes it virtually impossible for any action this year, Lungren says.

And Obama's Justice Department filing suit today against the state of Arizona over its new law targeting illegal immigrants?

"I think it's wrong. I think it's dumb," Lungren told The Bee's editorial board this afternoon.

The Arizona law, which is to take effect July 29, requires law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of people they stop -- if they have a reasonable suspicion the person might be in the country illegally.

The federal lawsuit says the law usurps authority reserved for the federal government, will create a patchwork of immigration law and will divert federal resources. Critics also say the law will inevitably lead to racial profiling.

But Lungren -- who says that unlike many opponents he's actually read the law -- says there are enough protections written into it to prevent such abuses. While supporting Arizona's law, he said that a federal solution would be much better.

Obama's strategy won't lead to one, however, Lungren said. And he can't see how it will help Democrats in the November election, especially moderate and conservative "Blue Dogs" who have already stuck their necks out on health care reform.

"They're not taking my political advice," Lungren said.

Lungren refused to offer any advice to Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, tiptoeing around whether he should step down over highly controversial remarks he made about the war in Afghanistan.

Some other big-name Republicans have called on Steele to resign after he said that Afghanistan was a mistaken "war of Obama's choosing."

There's bipartisan agreement that the war in Afghanistan, started under President George W. Bush, was in direct response to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, which were plotted by Osama bin Laden while under the protection of the Taliban in the lawless nation.

Lungren called the remarks "very disappointing" and said that Steele owed it to the troops to get his facts right.

But he said that since he's no longer on the Republican National Committee, he wouldn't voice his opinion on Steele's future. The controversial party chairman has refused to stand down so far.


July 4, 2010
Who says Arizona, Nevada and Texas never gave us anything?

Arizona, Nevada and Texas, states with notoriously lax gun laws, are major exporters of guns used in crimes in California, according to the California Department of Justice.

Due to its size, California is the largest source of guns used for illicit purposes in this and other states. But on a per capita level, California falls far below the national average.

For deeper analysis on this point, please take a look at this 2008 report produced by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group that counts Kevin Johnson as a member and was co-founded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

And to read more about the issue, please go here, here and here in today's Forum.

Among the other states, Arizona and Nevada followed by Texas are the biggest sources of guns used in crimes in California.

In 2009, authorities traced 16,229 guns used in crimes in California. Most were domestic--11,787 came from California.

But Arizona accounted 840 illicit guns, or almost 19% of the illicit guns that didn't come from California, followed by 525 from Nevada, or 11.7 percent, and 332 from Texas, or 7.4 percent.

The source for this information can be found here. The pattern was the same in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

July 4, 2010
Carly Fiorina and Barbara Boxer duel over gunners' rights

Republican U.S. Senate nominee Carly Fiorina repeatedly has voiced strong support for gun owners' rights.

She did so once more after the U.S. Supreme Court extended Second Amendment rights to states and cities last week. Democratic incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer again advocated "common-sense gun laws."

Following the high court's ruling in McDonald vs. Chicago, Fiorina's campaign issued the following statement:

"Carly is pleased that the Supreme Court reaffirmed that the Second Amendment applies equally to the federal government and the states. The right to bear arms is a fundamental right granted by the Constitution and responsible citizens should be able to posses a firearm. She is confident that safeguards in place will prevent dangerous citizens from inflicting harm on themselves or others."

Boxer had a different take:

"After the Supreme Court ruling, my focus is on ensuring that California's common-sense gun laws that protect our families and law enforcement officers are allowed to remain on the books. These California laws include the state ban on assault weapons and armor-piercing bullets, the prohibition on carrying guns in a school zone, and the law that allows law-abiding citizens who feel they need a concealed firearm for protection to get a permit from their local police or sheriff."

While neither statement says much, Boxer and Fiorina diverge rather dramatically on the gun issue.

The issue, once white hot, has cooled in recent years, at least in California. That could change as November nears and pro-gun groups challenge California state laws and city ordinances that restrict gun ownership.

To read more about the issue, please go herehere and here in today's Forum.

As this article notes, Fiorina opposes a federal assault weapons ban, unlike Boxer. 

Very much unklike Boxer, Fiorina won the National Rifle Association's blessing during the primary, as California Republican Party vice-chairman Jon Fleischman noted in this blog posting.

In a line that we may see once or twice or a hundred times between now and Election Day, Fiorina said during a televised debate heading into the GOP primary that mere inclusion on the "no-fly list" ought not to be grounds to bar an individual from owning a gun.

The FrumForum, written by conservative commendator David Frum, duly noted that head-scratching performance in this posting.

July 1, 2010
Jerry Brown, Meg Whitman react - sort of - to big gun ruling

Politicians tend to duck when questions turn to the volatile issue of guns, and they're diving for cover again in 2010.

We asked the candidates what they thought as we prepared a package of articles for this Sunday's Forum focusing on this week's landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling, McDonald vs. Chicago, expanding gun owners' rights.

Not much, apparently.

Attorney General Jerry Brown, the Democratic nominee for governor, declined through a spokesman to comment on the ruling.

But in a little noticed action last year, Brown filed a friend of the court brief urging that the justices take up the case. Unlike many states, Brown's said in the brief, California has no state constitutional equivalent of the U.S. constitutional right to bear arms.

"Unless the protections of the Second Amendment extend to citizens living in the states as well as to those living in federal enclaves, California citizens could be deprived of the constitutional right to possess handguns in their homes," he wrote.

Brown urged that the court "should extend to the states" the concept that government "cannot deny citizens the right to possess handguns in their homes, but also provide guidance on the scope of the state's ability to reasonable regulate firearms."

Brown's decision against commenting on the decision was in keeping with his past, at least according to those who remember dealing with him when he was governor the first time.

"Jerry Brown was exceptionally cautious about the gun issue," said veteran Republican consultant Bill Saracino, who formerly oversaw the conservative Gun Owners of California. "He was never vocal on the gun issue."

Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman didn't exactly react to the high court decision, either.

Sarah Pompei, a spokeswoman for the candidate, said Whitman "has been entirely consistent in her support of the Second Amendment, and in her belief that there should be no new restrictions on the books."

San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, the Democratic nominee for attorney general, offered a little more insight, saying the decision makes it "critical that California state and local government, law enforcement and the courts work diligently to preserve our gun laws in order to keep our communities safe."

"Getting illegal guns off our streets and protecting California's assault weapons ban have been among my highest priorities as District Attorney and will remain top priorities when I am Attorney General," Harris said in a statement.

Harris' Republican foe, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, said through a spokesman that the decision was a "logical extension" of a ruling issued two years ago.

The decision, Cooley's statement said, "will hopefully reconcile the confusion created by thousands of districts passing their own customized laws controlling the lawful possession of firearms by law-abiding citizens."

Of course, the campaign is young. We at The Bee will catch up to them and make an effort to pin them down on this important issue.

July 1, 2010
Obama pushes immigration reform, finally


In his first major speech on immigration reform as president, Barack Obama said today what he had to say. In keeping with his cool persona, he brought some welcome reason and rationality amid the overheated rhetoric and overreaction to Arizona's new law.

Almost everyone agrees the immigration system is broken. But in noting the political gridlock on the issue, Obama also acknowledged that there is no bipartisan consensus on the solution.

The president blamed "political posturing and special interest wrangling" and faulted Republicans he said had succumbed to the "pressures of partisanship and election-year politics."

"I'm ready to move forward, the majority of Democrats are ready to move forward and I believe the majority of Americans are ready to move forward. But the fact is that without bipartisan support, as we had just a few years ago, we cannot solve this problem," Obama (shown in the Associated Press photo above) said at American University in Washington, D.C.

"Reform that brings accountability to our immigration system cannot pass without Republican votes," he added. "That is the political and mathematical reality."

That moment Obama referred to was in 2007, when Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona proposed a sweeping immigration reform bill. President George W. Bush was on board.

But opponents, including especially vociferous foes on the right wing of the GOP, stopped that momentum cold. By calling such proposals "amnesty," they made it political suicide for a Republican with national ambitions to sign on to such a measure.

Three years later, the situation is, if anything, worse. And frustrations have led to measures like the Arizona law, set to take effect later this month, which calls on law enforcement to check the immigration status of residents if they have a reasonable suspicion they might be illegal. Critics call it a recipe for racial profiling, and Sacramento and other California cities have announced boycotts in response.

Obama supports a plan similar to the : Further secure the borders, penalize businesses that hire illegal immigrants and offer a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already living here -- if they pay fines and back taxes and learn English.

The president has been criticized by reform advocates for not more aggressively pushing their cause. His administration made the political calculation that it wanted to first pass an economic stimulus, health care reform and a financial regulatory overhaul. The first two are law, and the third will almost certainly win final passage when the Senate returns from its July Fourth recess.

So now it's time for immigration reform. But that one may turn out to be the toughest to pass of all.

About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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