The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

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July 17, 2013
More to new UC student regent than stance on Israel

At Wednesday's meeting of the UC Board of Regents, the most controversial item wasn't the tuition hike approved for a handful of professional programs or the employee contribution increase to the UC Retirement Program.

It was the confirmation of UC Berkeley student Sadia Saifuddin as the board's 2014-15 student regent and next year's student regent designate.

At issue was Saifuddin's support of a bill encouraging the university to boycott and divest from Israel during her tenure as a senator in UCB's undergraduate student government, the Associated Students of the University of California.

It is ludicrous that this single item played such an outsized role in Wednesday's discussion of her suitability for the post.

During the meeting, members of the board zeroed in on the matter of divestment, adding their concerns and qualifying their compliments. In doing so, they failed to make serious note of the Berkeley student's overall track record or even to highlight the qualifications that made her the best candidate for the position.

Four regents spoke before the vote on Saifuddin's nomination, and all expressed concern about the divisiveness of boycott and divestment movements. Only one regent, Richard Blum, abstained from a vote.

By ignoring Saifuddin's stances on other issues, the board played part to an unfortunate narrative -- that her stance on the Israeli-Palestine conflict was of more consequence than her familiarity with the board's capabilities, her plans to advocate for an affordable UC degree or her other positions on higher education.

Saifuddin, the first Muslim student to serve on the Regents board, shouldn't be pinned down by one vote or one cause. She has undertaken projects to fight student hunger, helping to establish the UC Berkeley Food Pantry, and has also advocated on behalf of the LGBT community on campus. As the student representative to the board, Saifuddin said she hopes to facilitate cross cultural communication and to represent many campus communities.

The Israel-Palestine conflict is of great importance to many on UC campuses, and divestment is a touchy subject. Serious discussion is needed to improve the manner in which the Israel-Palestine conflict is discussed at our universities.

But it was clear from comments made by members of the board and the public that Saifuddin has widespread support among students of many backgrounds.Now we will see if the unfortunate focus of her confirmation process will compromise her ability to be an effective advocate for UC students on issues such as affordability, institutional accountability and academic diversity.

It shouldn't.

-- Loic Hostetter

Loic Hostetter, a UCLA student, is an intern this summer on The Bee's editorial board. He is live tweeting the Board of Regents meeting this week in San Francisco. Follow him on Twitter @LoicHostetter.

June 13, 2013
PG&E president rebuts calls by San Bruno leaders for big fine

Johns.jpgPG&E President Christopher Johns seemed resigned today to paying $2 billion-plus in fines as partial penance for the 2010 San Bruno natural gas explosion, but said the $3.8 billion sought by the city of San Bruno is over the top.

The California Public Utilities Commission is contemplating imposing a $2.25 billion fine, a sum that covers the cost of safety improvements that PG&E has performed since the blast, which leveled a neighborhood and killed eight people.

"It shouldn't be any higher than the money we have spent and we've committed to spend," Johns said, placing that number at $2.2 billion, during a visit to The Bee's editorial board today. "We certainly would like it to be less than that."

April 5, 2013
Why should Obama apologize for telling the truth?

By Ginger Rutland

We suck all the marrow out of our politicians and then wonder why they come off so universally wooden and timid and scripted.

The most recent case on point - an off-hand remark by President Barack Obama at a private fundraiser in San Francisco that Kamala Harris "also happens to be the best-looking attorney general in the country" has created a stir among the chattering classes - mostly newspaper reporters and TV pundits. Regular Americans, I suspect, could care less.

Under the headline "Flirter in chief," Fox News reports that the president, a friend and long time political ally of Harris, called her to apologize for the remark. Please! Where else in the world do men have to apologize for calling a good looking women good looking?

California happens to be home to two exceptionally beautiful women in high office - Harris, who undoubtedly is, as the president said, "the best looking attorney general in the country," and Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court.

Some may recall the hubbub that Assemblyman Chuck Calderon created a year or so ago when he alluded to Cantil-Sakauye's appearance in an Assembly floor speech. "It isn' she attractive" the clueless Calderon sputtered, "Cause she is."

Unlike Harris, the chief justice did take offense. That may have been because at the moment he uttered his fateful words regarding Cantil-Sakauye's appearance, Calderon was pushing legislation that would have stripped the chief justice of her power.

There seems to be a double standard. Endless stories have been written and reams of newsprint consumed on the subject of California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom's handsome profile. One news article called him "blindingly handsome." But I don't recall any one getting huffy about it or being accused of sexism or even asking him if he were offended.

And it goes beyond politicians. Ordinary men I talk to about this tell me they feel constrained at the office, afraid of offering even the most common place compliments to their female co-workers.

This, I think, is one of those instances when the "media" really is to blame. We tend to highlight the "oops" moments, blowing them way out of proportion. "Flirter in chief?" - give me a break.

President Barack Obama walks with California Attorney General Kamala Harris, center, and California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, after arriving at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

October 23, 2009
Mayor uses smokescreen of "accountability" to keep wrongdoing under wraps

Mayor Kevin Johnson posted a truly odd response on his campaign blog Thursday to critics of his move to ferret out a City Hall leaker.. He loves accountability, he wrote in his first line. "Not one day has passed without me talking about accountability," he said. 

Now, he continued, he is asking the city council for accountability:

At the October 20 city council meeting, in a brief remark, I asked the City Manager to investigate how privileged city documents were being leaked to the media. My request puts several people in uncomfortable positions. The people who leaked the material are uncomfortable. And the media are uncomfortable. But the comfort of those people and organizations is not my concern.

Leaking, he writes, is "sneaky and dishonest." It "destroys" the government's ability to function. Really?

He further notes that the leaked documents were "written under the attorney-client privilege." Doesn't he know that the clients are under no obligation to keep documents secret? The council and mayor have the right to share legal memos with the public (and, some might even say, a duty to do so if they involve public issues).

As for the leaker or leakers, he essentially calls them cowards for not publicly stepping forward.

Johnson's blog post is an apparent response to an editorial The Bee published on Thursday:

Through his actions and words, he seems to care more about who leaked a confidential memo to The Bee detailing serious violations of city policy and federal regulations than about the violations themselves. At Tuesday night's council meeting, a steaming Johnson called for a closed-door council session attended by the city police chief. He wanted the chief there to discuss what he called "the crime" committed when a memo written by City Attorney Eileen Teichert about the Natomas permit violations was leaked to The Bee. ...This incident demands a thorough, open and independent investigation, not closed-door meetings intended to plug leaks and hide information from the public.

We're glad we got the mayor's attention.

July 14, 2009
Links for National Night Out and neighborhood watch efforts
In today's lead editorial, we urge neighborhood groups to help fill the gap caused by budget cuts to local police patrols.

One place to start is by participating on National Night Out on Tuesday, Aug. 4.

Below are some links to the event and resources for residents who want to organize neighborhood watch programs.

National Night Out

Sacramento County Sheriff's Department Neighborhood Watch

Sacramento Police Department Neighborhood Watch

City of Roseville Crime Prevention

City of Folsom Crime Prevention

Elk Grove Neighborhood Watch

March 2, 2009
Have a question for the Rev. Jesse Jackson?
Jesse Jackson is scheduled to visit with The Bee's editorial board this afternoon, as part of a push by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson to encourage more volunteerism across the city and region.

Jackson is a civil rights activist and Baptist preacher who ran for president in 1984 and 1988. He's never been at a loss for words, and some of them have gotten him in trouble over the years. Yet he remains a powerful public speaker and an influential political leader. It will be interesting to see what is on his mind.

What are you thoughts? What questions would you like to see posed to Rev. Jackson? Readers who leave their full name and hometown, along with their questions, will be given consideration.
February 6, 2009
Recover overpayment for train depot?

We're working on a Monday editorial taking up the idea that the City of Sacramento should aggressively go after money owed to the public to help fill a $50 million budget gap.  Council members Kevin McCarty and Rob Fong have identified at least one prime target, worth millions of dollars.


In a rush land deal in December 2006, the city gave Thomas Enterprises $55 million to help the developer close on its $70 million purchase of 240 acres in the downtown railyard.


The city's $55 million was called an "advance payment" on city purchase of 32.8 acres, which included the historic I Street train depot.


With no appraisal, the city paid roughly $1.7 million per acre for the 32.8 acres (while on the same day, Thomas Enterprises paid roughly $292,000 an acre for 240 acres in the railyard).


However, the purchase and sale agreement did lay out a three-month negotiation/mediation/arbitration process to determine the fair market value of the 32.8 acres and to have Thomas Enterprises pay up if the city's $55 million advance payment was more than the final purchase price. 


Yet two years have passed and the city still has no final purchase price or settle up.

What do you think the mayor and city council should do?

February 6, 2009
Editorial: Big Five secrecy makes mockery of democracy
By voting for these budget packages and allowing their leaders to negotiate them in the dark, lawmakers of both parties are ensuring an odious outcome. In essence, they are abdicating their responsibility to legislate and govern, further diminishing their standing in the public eye. To read the full editorial, go here.

Related content:
SacBee: "State's Big Five keep talks secret for fear of dooming budget deal"

Tim Herdt: "When the deal hits the fan"
February 3, 2009
Editorial: Bike path growing on the Garden Highway?
LS TANDEM CYCLING 1.JPGA wider levee in Natomas could be the foundation for bicycle and hiking trail that could stretch from Sutter County to Sacramento. To read the full editorial, go here.

Sacramento Bee Photo/ Lezlie Sterling

February 3, 2009
Editorial: CTA takes low road with its ads
The California Teachers Association is running television ads urging legislators to reject proposals to give school districts funding flexibility to mitigate inevitable reductions. Teachers at the local level need to tell their leaders at the state level that flexibility is better than draconian cuts. To read the full editorial, go here.
February 2, 2009
Prison pugilists need to put down their gloves
Our lead editorial today urges Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown to start negotiating with the state's prison receiver, instead of wasting time on what is surely to be a unsuccessful court effort to end the receivership.

States the editorial:

Delays mean that thousands of prisoners have to be transported from prison to local community hospitals, costing hundreds of millions a year. The shadowboxing between Schwarzenegger, Brown and Kelso provides great entertainment, but is getting the state nowhere - at great expense.

February 2, 2009
Union leaders hurt rank and file by not cutting furlough deal
In an editorial today, The Bee notes that rank-and-file state workers would have been far better off if their leaders had quickly agreed with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to implement one-day-a-month furloughs as an alternative to layoffs or two-day furloughs.

Had the governor been able to implement one-day furloughs two months ago, the state would have banked the savings quickly and there would have been less pressure to seek other payroll savings.

An excerpt from the editorial:

Now that so much time has passed and Schwarzenegger has been given new leverage by the court decision, he may continue pressing for the full two days rather than agreeing to a compromise.

We still think a cut that large puts too much of the burden for solving the state's budget problems on its employees. Unfortunately, that is the price they might have to pay for the intransigence of their union leaders.

January 30, 2009
Steinberg puts gavel down on play by judges to boost benefits
Today's lead editorial looks at "sneaker bills" that inevitably enter into closed-door deliberations as lawmakers try to close out a budget deal. The editorial highlights one such bill that came across our desks -- an attempt by state judges to hike the benefits they could receive on top of their existing salary and compensation.

After we flagged it and inquired about it, the office of Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said he would not introduce it this session:

You can read the draft language in question here at
Judges bill

January 28, 2009
Budget dithering catches up with Sacramento County
Today's lead editorial in The Bee states that Sacramento County "has made a bad fiscal situation worse" by stubbornly clinging to wishful revenue projections and refusing, in past weeks, to disclose the extent of the county's red ink.

The bottom line:

"The time for wishful thinking is over. The county is experiencing an epic slide in property values and sales tax revenues, and this isn't a blip. It's a monumental challenge, and it will require sacrifices and realism from everyone - beginning with the people elected to run Sacramento County."
What do you think? If you want to send a letter to the editor, you can submit one here.
January 28, 2009
GOP lawmakers come to the rescue of diesel soot
Following up on an earlier Swarm item, an editorial in The Bee today hits Republican lawmakers for seeking rollbacks of environmental regulations as the price of a state budget deal.

The editorial notes that some of these environmental regulations -- including limits on diesel pollution from construction equipment -- were enacted after months of public hearings.

"Now, at the 11th hour, Republicans want to use a closed-door process to gain regulatory relief for construction companies that, instead of investing in cleaner equipment, have put their money into a lobbying campaign."
You can read the full editorial here.
January 26, 2009
Congress set to approve new wilderness and recreation areas
Bonnie Lake email.JPGToday's lead editorial urges the House to approve a public lands omnibus package that could expand wilderness areas in California by 700,000 acres, and create new snowmobile parks and other recreation areas.

The editorial highlights a proposed addition to the Hoover Wilderness that will protect dozens of gorgeous alpine lakes and meadows near Sonora Pass, just west of Bridgeport. The photo to the right shows Bonnie Lake, one of the areas that would become part of the Hoover Wilderness.    
To read a copy of S. 22, the omnibus package passed by the Senate and now in the House, go here.

So what do you think? A step forward for our public lands?

Photo couresty John Dittli, special to The Bee.

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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