The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

September 26, 2012
Sacramento gets more cash to conduct DUI checkpoints
Drunken drivers beware. One major law enforcement tool will continue in Sacramento.

The City Council is set Thursday evening to accept a $240,900 grant from the state Office of Traffic Safety to conduct 24 DUI checkpoints between Oct. 1 and Sept. 30, 2013.

Similar grants have enabled the police department to continue the checkpoints, despite budget cuts that have led the department to disband its traffic enforcement unit, among others.

As I explored in California Forum earlier this month, Sacramento has a big problem with DUI. It has the highest rate of deaths and injuries in alcohol-related collisions of any of California's 13 largest cities. It also has among the highest rates of DUI arrests.

In 2010, alcohol was a factor in 10 percent of all crashes, but more than 30 percent of fatalities in collisions.

One of the eye-opening facts is how many drunken drivers are caught in these checkpoints, even though they are announced in advance. Police publicize them to avoid constitutional problems with illegal search and seizure because every vehicle is stopped, whether there is probable cause or not.

The checkpoints are only one strategy to reduce DUIs.

As The Bee's editorial board said, the solution could also lie in tougher laws targeting repeat offenders and more effective and available counseling and treatment programs. Bars need to train staff to avoid serving intoxicated customers.

But it also comes down to us -- making sure we have designated drivers and keeping tipsy friends and relatives from getting behind the wheel.
September 20, 2012
Gov. Brown signs 18 bills to help California veterans, families
Gov. Jerry Brown today signed a raft of bills to help veterans and their families -- 18 in all.

While they're not necessarily groundbreaking, they will aid some vets, including those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, with education benefits and could ease their transition back into the civilian workforce.

Pete Conaty, the legislative lobbyist for several veterans groups, said the bills make "this is the most productive year for veterans legislation since the tragedy of 9/11 occurred and America went to war."

"Veterans groups have really come together this year to push legislation to help all veterans, especially those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan," he said in a statement.

For instance, Assembly Bill 2462 requires the chancellor of the state community colleges to determine when military experience should count toward course credit.

"In California approximately 30,000 troops leave service with work skills that could be counted toward an academic degree, professional license or certification that could help them transition to civilian life after service to their country," Assemblyman Marty Block, a San Diego Democrat who authored the bill, said in a statement.

In May, I wrote about one specific area -- medics who want their combat service to count when they apply to nursing programs. While the bill doesn't directly address this issue, it could help.

Also, Assembly Bill 2371, authored by Democrat Betsy Butler, is designed to help veterans with service-related mental disorders like PTSD who commit crimes get treatment instead of being sent to prison. 

Last December, I wrote about special veterans courts in several California counties that have the same aim.
September 6, 2012
The ballot argument against sales tax that voters won't get
Eye on Sacramento, a local watchdog group, and others wanted to submit a ballot argument against Measure U, the proposed half-cent sales tax increase in Sacramento on the Nov. 6 ballot. But since they believed one from Mayor Kevin Johnson would take precedence, they didn't do so by the deadline. 

To read it, click here.

In an earlier post, there's a link to the ballot argument that Johnson planned to submit against the sales tax measure. Since he missed the deadline, voters will only get the "pro" argument signed by Police Chief Rick Braziel and Fire Chief Ray Jones, among others, with their sample ballots.

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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