The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

April 27, 2010
Steinberg tells Schwarzenegger to boycott Arizona

Can a state really divorce itself from its neighbor?

If state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg gets his way, we could soon find out.

Jumping on the boycott bandwagon over Arizona's new law on illegal immigrants, the Sacramento Democrat urged Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today to do everything legally possible to sever economic ties with Arizona until it repeals the law.

He and others threatening boycotts say the law, signed last week by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, will inevitably lead to racial profiling. The law -- which would take effect in about three months barring a successful court challenge -- would require immigrants to carry proof of their status and require police to determine whether someone is in the country illegally if they have a "reasonable suspicion" about someone.

"As a border state, the impact of the Arizona law will surely have reverberations in California. And given the threat the Arizona law poses to public safety and individual freedoms, I believe we can't afford to wait for the courts to resolve the legal questions it presents. I think we have a moral obligation to deliver an unequivocal message to lawmakers in Arizona that California does not condone its conduct," Steinberg wrote Schwarzenegger.

"The Arizona law is as unconscionable as it is unconstitutional, and the state of California should not be using taxpayer dollars to support such a policy. For that reason, I respectfully request that you provide me with information about all existing and proposed contracts between the state of California and any businesses or governments in Arizona. I would like for our respective legal staffs to work together to determine whether we can legally break any of our existing contracts, and also ensure that no new contracts are negotiated until Arizona's law is effectively repealed."

The wave of opposition is similar to what happened after then-Arizona Gov. Evan Meacham repealed civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday as a holiday in 1987 and voters supported that decision in 1990. That time, boycotts worked. After tourism plummeted and the NFL moved a Super Bowl from Tempe to Pasadena, Arizona voters reversed course in 1992 and made the holiday official.

But taken to an extreme, Steinberg's solution could threaten the whole idea of the United States of America. Would Utah boycott California because it allowed same-sex marriages? Would Phoenix shun San Francisco because it's a sanctuary city? Would state after state show its displeasure with a controversial law in another by cutting off ties?

April 23, 2010
Will Arizona law boost immigration overhaul effort?

Leading Democrats, civil rights groups and advocacy groups quickly assailed a new Arizona law cracking down on illegal immigration.

But the question is: Will all that outrage strengthen the political will to tackle comprehensive reform of America's broken immigration system?

President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi certainly talked like it today.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, signed the bill, which makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally and requires police officers to question people about their immigration status if they suspect they are undocumented. She stared down critics and hundreds of protestors, who said that innocent persons' civil rights would be trampled. She vowed not to tolerate racial profiling and announced an executive order to increase training of law officers to prevent it. But she also blamed Washington for not acting and allowing an "unacceptable" situation to fester.

But before Brewer's event, Obama called the bill "misguided" and said he was instructing the Justice Department to look at whether it is legal.

He has been under fire from some Latino advocacy groups and others for not pushing immigration reform more aggressively. He supports a reform that includes a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants if they pay fines, learn English and pass a criminal background check -- a proposal similar to the bill that then-President George W. Bush, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and the late Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts failed to get through Congress in 2006.

Since, the issue has become untouchable for many Republicans and Democrats, who say that until the U.S.-Mexico border is fully secured, there can be no reform.

Obama said today that the Arizona law shows the need for national reform.

"The new law in Arizona is a reminder of the need for urgent, bipartisan action at the federal level to enact comprehensive immigration reform to secure our borders, keep our nation safe, uphold the rule of law, protect our workers and our economy, unite families, and provide a pathway to legalization," agreed Pelosi, a San Francisco Democrat.

"Our nation has been sustained and strengthened by immigrants from generation to generation and that is why today's action in Arizona is misguided and irresponsible," she said in a statement. "Families have come to the United States hoping for a better life and striving for a brighter future. We must do everything in our power to build on that tradition by passing comprehensive immigration reform and ensuring our nation's cherished civil rights."

April 23, 2010
Sacramento City Council candidates on the hot seat

This year's Sacramento City Council election appears to the most competitive in quite a while. There are 16 candidates running in the four district races, the most since 1992.

Incumbents Steve Cohn in District 3, Ray Tretheway in District 1 and Robbie Waters in District 7 all have serious challengers. The District 5 seat is open since incumbent Lauren Hammond is running for state Assembly instead.

For voters, that means more choice -- but also more work to vet candidates before mailing in ballots starting May 10 or going to the polls June 8. And there are a host of significant issues that will face the new council.

So to help voters sort through the candidates, The Bee Editorial Board sent out a questionnaire that all 16 candidates returned. The questions and answers are online; you can search by candidate, by district and by issue.

Still to come, the editorial board will offer its evaluation of the candidates.

April 9, 2010
Stupak decision shows the politics of compromise and abortion

If you're looking for a textbook example of the practical politics of compromise versus issue-driven advocacy, you need look no further than the responses to U.S. Representative Bart Stupak's announcement today that he will not seek a 10th term in November.

The Michigan Democrat turned out be perhaps the key vote leading up to the historic passage of the health care overhaul last month. Stupak led a group of anti-abortion Democrats who wrote strict language against federal funding of any abortions into the bill the House originally passed. Those provisions were not in the Senate version before the House last month. In their place, Stupak eventually agreed to accept an accompanying executive order from President Barack Obama.

That drew ire from anti-abortion activists who say the order isn't enough -- and also led to some death threats.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had to win hard-fought compromises with various elements of the Democratic coalition to get health care reform through, was urging Stupak to stay in the fight and seek re-election. She called him "a stalwart advocate for the interests, hopes, and aspirations of his constituents."

"Nowhere did First District voters or the entire nation witness his tenacity and steadfast commitment more than in the successful effort to provide quality, affordable health care to all Americans. Throughout the battle for reform - from his crucial role on the House Energy and Commerce Committee to his leadership on the floor of the House - Bart Stupak was a forceful advocate for providing health care to all Americans," she said in a statement.

But abortion rights groups were already organizing to defeat Stupak and they greeted his announcement with a "good riddance."

"Rep. Stupak needlessly jeopardized the historic health care reform law through his single-minded attempt to take away private insurance coverage for abortion that millions of women have today," Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement.

"Fortunately, Planned Parenthood and its supporters and congressional allies worked tirelessly to keep the Stupak abortion coverage ban out of the final health care reform bill. Voters in Michigan deserve a representative who will put their interests and needs ahead of narrow ideological aims. That's why the Planned Parenthood Action Fund has endorsed Connie Saltonstall for U.S. Representative and will be working hard to elect her to Congress."

Three Republicans are jockeying for the nomination, and the Tea Party Express is involved in the race. So it's entirely possible that Democrats could lose that seat, making Pelosi's job that much tougher next year.

 

April 7, 2010
Will Republicans finally admit fault in health care threats?

Those threats against Democrats over the health care overhaul that some Republicans pooh-poohed as so much paranoia?

Well, they're real enough that authorities have arrested a San Francisco man today for vowing harm against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after taking another man into custody Tuesday for threatening to kill Senator Patty Murray of Washington state.

The FBI apprehended Gregory Lee Giusti, 48, at his San Francisco home shortly after noon. The Associated Press quotes several federal officials who said the man made dozens of calls to Pelosi's homes in California and Washington, D.C., as well as to her husband's business office. They said he recited her home address and said if she wanted to see it again, she would not support the health care bill.

"After an investigation into threats made against Speaker Pelosi, an arrest has been made in San Francisco. The Speaker thanks the FBI, the Capitol Hill Police, House Sergeant at Arms, and other law enforcement officials for their professionalism in this matter," Brendan Daly, a spokesman for Pelosi, said in a statement. "She will have no further comment at this time."

As we said in an editorial, Republicans bear at least some of the responsibility for the threats with the volume and vitriol of their attacks on Democrats during the debate.

Now that people are actually being charged with the threats, we're still waiting for any senior Republican to accept that responsibility and issue any kind of apology.



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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