The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

March 26, 2013
Sacramento supervisors go on record against 4 a.m. last call

The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors today strongly opposed a bill that could lead to a later last call for serving alcohol at bars and restaurants.

Senate Bill 635 would allow cities and counties to petition the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to extend hours from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. in designated nightlife districts.

Supervisors voted after hearing from the Sheriff's Department that it worries about more drunken driving and its ability to patrol more crowded roads at 4 a.m., when the commute to the Bay area is starting for some local residents.

That backed up a staff recommendation that also warned about the impact on public safety.

Supervisor Phil Serna said it was a "no brainer" for him to oppose the extended hours.

He and other supervisors also didn't think much of supporters' arguments that a later last call could actually reduce DUIs by limiting binge drinking by patrons slamming down drinks at 2 a.m. Backers also describe the measure as local economic development tool.

March 25, 2013
Here comes U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley, finally

Better late than never for Troy L. Nunley, who has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate to become a judge on the federal district court centered in Sacramento.

Nunley was initially nominated by President Barack Obama last June, but was left hanging in December when the Senate adjourned without voting on his nomination and 10 other judicial nominees. The Bee's editorial board called them casualties of the partisan rancor in Washington.

Obama renominated Nunley in January the very day the new Senate was sworn into office. He was finally confirmed Saturday morning.

Nunley, a former prosecutor, is a judge on the Sacramento Superior Court. He will help ease a backlog in the Eastern District of California that is one of the worst in the country. According to Sen. Dianne Feinstein's office, it takes a criminal case 30 percent longer to be completed than it did in 2009, and a civil case takes nearly four years to get to trial, 50 percent longer than two years ago."

"Judge Nunley's confirmation is a small step to help relieve the pressure in the Eastern District, but there is more to do," Feinstein said in a statement. "I will continue the fight to add more judgeships to the California's Eastern District, which has suffered from unsustainable caseloads for years."

March 21, 2013
Sacramento supervisors to take up 4 a.m. last call

Sacramento County supervisors could go on record Tuesday against a bill that would allow cities and counties to let bars and restaurants have last call at 4 a.m.

The staff recommendation says the Board of Supervisors should oppose Senate Bill 635 because the consequences of permitting alcohol sales to continue from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. "could be significant as they relate to health and safety risks."

"Later hours of sale result in problems which take a number of forms, such as public drunkenness, assault, rape, theft, begging and vandalism," the staff report says. "Consequently, the costs of community services such as police and medical services will be impacted."

The bill's author, Sen. Mark Leno of San Francisco, says it's about more local control and potential for tax revenue.

He and supporters, which include the California Restaurant Association, say the later last call would boost local economies and help nightlife districts in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego compete for tourism dollars with cities such as Las Vegas, New York and Miami.

Under the bill, a local government would have to seek permission from the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to allow the 4 a.m. last call in certain areas, on specific days of the week, or both. Each bar or restaurant wanting later hours would also have to get approval from the state ABC.

As I wrote earlier this week, I'm concerned that neighborhoods near nightlife districts might be burdened. I also worry about whether state ABC has the resources and right attitude to protect residents.

Supervisors are scheduled to take up the issue at 11:15 a.m. Tuesday. The bill is set for its first Senate committee hearing on April 9.

March 14, 2013
State auditor will look at employment programs for veterans

It's not a huge step in the scheme of things, but it could lead to progress for California veterans.

Today, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee directed the state auditor to look at how well the state is helping veterans get jobs.

State Sen. Lou Correa, a Democrat from Santa Ana who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, made the request, noting that young vets in particular are having a hard time finding work.

"Unemployment is at crisis levels for young veterans in California. I applaud the committee for agreeing that we must improve employment opportunities for our veterans," Correa said in a statement.

As I mentioned in a recent California Forum story on the issue, about 40 percent of veterans between 18 and 24 are unemployed. As Correa also notes, young veterans with short military careers are competing with peers who went to college or have more job experience. And as California's sluggish economy improves, many more veterans will be coming home as U.S. forces pull out of Afghanistan and the defense budget gets cut.

Bottom line: They need all the help they can get.

March 13, 2013
A successful test for California earthquake warning network

The small earthquake felt by much of southern California this week should help the cause for a statewide warning system.

But then again, we're talking about the Legislature, so who knows.

Scientists say a prototype gave 35 seconds of warning before the more damaging waves arrived from the magnitude 4.7 temblor in Riverside County.

The quake caused no major damage, but in a bigger one, it would have been enough notice for trains to stop, utilities to power down and for people to seek better shelter.

Sen. Alex Padilla introduced a bill this session to create a statewide quake alert network, at a cost of $80 million to install the sensors, plus about $20 million a year to operate it.

The Bee's editorial board is in favor, calling it a smart investment since it could limit much more costly damage, not to mention saving lives.

So far, there has been no action on Senate Bill 135.

March 8, 2013
Clergy raise the volume on Sacramento anti-gang program

Two dozen Sacramento clergy leaders plan to use their bully pulpits this weekend to urge their congregations to get City Hall to give more money to an anti-gang program.

As a Bee sister blog reports, they held a press conference this morning to publicize the effort. The clergy, under the umbrella of Sacramento Area Congregations Together, is also trying to capitalize on the renewed interest in reining in gun violence from the Newton, Conn., school shootings.

The Bee's editorial board has championed the anti-gang program, known as Ceasefire, urging the City Council to consider using some of the proceeds from the Measure U sales tax increase.

City officials are on a path to use about $5.5 million of the $27 million projected to be available in 2013-14 to keep 60 police officers hired with federal grants that run out. So far, there are no plans to spend money on community-based anti-crime efforts like Ceasefire.

March 7, 2013
Sen. Paul gets answer on drone strikes against U.S. citizens

For all his blubbering and ranting during an old-fashioned filibuster Wednesday on the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director, Sen. Rand Paul did raise a valid issue.

The Obama administration ought to say flat-out that it is unconstitutional and wrong to use drones to kill Americans on U.S. soil in counterterrorism strikes -- if they are not an imminent threat.

Finally today, Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter to Paul stating unequivocally that a weaponized drone would not be used against a U.S. citizen in this country who is not involved in combat. Paul tells CNN he will now allow a confirmation vote on Brennan. UPDATE: The Senate voted 63-34 this afternoon to confirm him.

While some fellow Republicans said that it was a non-issue and that Paul was encouraging needless fears, the hemming and hawing and word games about hypotheticals was unbecoming of a nation that is supposed to be a beacon for the rule of law. It has already taken too long for the White House to tell Congress, though not the public, what its precise legal justifications are to target U.S. citizens abroad in the war on terror.

March 4, 2013
Ami Bera gets dinged for sounding alarm on sequester

Rep. Ami Bera of Elk Grove, reading out of the Democratic playbook, is sounding the alarm about the "sequester" budget cuts.

The new congressman listed the potential impact in an op-ed for The Bee. Later that same day last week, he took to the floor of the House to weigh in against the across-the-board budget cuts.

But a nonpartisan fact-checking group says his gloomy language went too far in warning that "homes are going to burn."

At issue are federal grants used to hire firefighters, including at the Sacramento Metro Fire District. Politifact says that Bera overestimated the potential dollar loss and was engaging in speculation that the sequester would lead to more fires.

Overall, it gave Bera a "mostly false" for his claims.

Of course, Republicans, who hope to retake the 7th Congressional District seat in 2014, jumped all over that.

"Rather than using extreme rhetoric and scaring California families, Congressman Ami Bera should be explaining to voters what he's doing to minimize the sequester's effects and offer responsible alternatives," Alleigh Marre, spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a statement.

March 1, 2013
Johnson's State of the City was different, but was it better?

For his fifth State of the City address, Mayor Kevin Johnson sought to start a new tradition -- an event that was free to the public and in the evening so everyone can attend.

He certainly succeeded in giving it a different vibe. Thursday evening was nothing like traditional State of the City speeches for the past two decades - sedate luncheons hosted by the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce and attended mostly by business types in suits.

This one featured blaring music, local hip-hop dancers and choirs, blues rocker Jackie Greene singing the national anthem and local TV personality Mark S. Allen going over the top at times with his boosterish emceeing. The crowd of about 3,000 in historic Memorial Auditorium was a broader slice of Sacramento; there were even a few children in the house.

For someone criticized for more style than substance, it was something of a risk for the mayor to glitz it up.

I'm conflicted about whether he pulled it off.



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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