Paul Cobb | Special to California Black Media Partners | February 21, 2023
As the publisher of the Oakland Post, I am disappointed with recent mainstream media coverage and editorials trying to make tabloid news out of the appointment of Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Oakland) to be chair of the California Assembly Budget Subcommittee #5 on Public Safety.
Bonta a member of the California Legislative Black Caucus, was recently appointed chair by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, and some reporters and newspaper editors around California have baselessly made the case that the assignment is a conflict of interest because she is married to Attorney General Rob Bonta and her committee oversees funding for the state Department of Justice.
As journalists, we have a responsibility to report on conflicts of interest and hold public officials accountable for any improprieties. If, along the way, Bonta engages in activities that betray the voters’ trust, reporters covering her office have every right to investigate and expose those actions. However, it is equally important to exercise caution and avoid making unfounded accusations that could damage the reputation of public officials.
Speaker Rendon has stated that the Legislature’s budget process is designed with checks and balances to ensure that the best possible budget is passed. According to him, no elected official can ever personally or financially benefit from the budget process. The legislature does not set salaries or benefits for state constitutional officers such as Rob Bonta.
Bonta’s appointment to chair is recognition that she has the skills and experience necessary to fulfill her role effectively and impartially.
Rendon has expressed confidence that she will be independent in her legislative judgment.
The work of Budget Subcommittee #5 consists of hearing, reviewing, and making recommendations to the full Budget Committee concerning the Governor’s budget proposals for the courts, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the Department of Justice, the Military Department, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, and other public safety departments.
Instead of fabricating baseless claims of conflicts of interest where there are none, responsible news reporters should be covering real news events occurring around the state. There are countless issues that require our investigation, from the ongoing homelessness crisis to the urgent need for criminal justice reform.
The press should be covering the important work that Bonta is doing to promote public safety and reduce recidivism in her district, where sadly gun violence currently disproportionately ravages communities of color. These are her constituents’ legislative priorities, and Bonta has a strong track record of fighting for their needs.
There is real news occurring around the priorities Attorney General Bonta set for his office that merits press coverage. Among his priorities are combating hate crimes and protecting civil rights, advancing criminal justice reform, protecting consumers, defending California’s environment, and enhancing public safety. These are important issues that deserve our attention, and it is disappointing to see them being overshadowed by baseless allegations of conflict of interest.
Mia Bonta has made it clear that the suggestion of a conflict of interest shows a lack of understanding about the legislative budgeting process.
The Assembly budget process starts with the Governor’s proposed budget bill, introduced by the full Budget Committee chair as required
by the Constitution. There are five Assembly budget subcommittees that recommend amendments to the budget bill as the principal focus of their agendas.
The Governor’s chief fiscal advisor, the Department of Finance leads budget matters for the executive branch. Finance and departmental officials, as well as staff of the Legislative Analyst’s Office advocates and members of the public, appear at public hearings to answer questions.
Budget subcommittees focus on specific issues in their agendas, such as how much more or less funding a division of a department needs to perform a specific function.
The state’s budget is finalized by negotiations on thousands of budget items led by the Governor, the Senate Pro Tem, and the Assembly Speaker (a.k.a. the “Big Three”), on behalf of their branches of government. The staff of the Governor, the Senate, and the Assembly carry out these negotiations at the three leaders’ direction.
The Department of Justice – as a separate constitutional office – is not directly involved in those concluding negotiations. The executive branch in those talks is represented by the Governor.
Mia Bonta is an outstanding Assemblymember and public servant who has proven that she is committed to representing her constituents with integrity.
Proving her integrity, Bonta has announced, “I will recuse myself from Budget Subcommittee 5 matters directly pertaining to the Department of Justice including budget change proposals, proposed trailer bills, and legislative proposals that pertain to the DOJ to ensure that the body may focus on the important work before us.”
Rob Bonta, who held the same Assembly seat before being appointed Attorney General by Gov. Newsom and winning election to the office last November, also serves his office with integrity.
The media focus should be on covering both of their efforts to promote public safety and make California a better place for all citizens.
I urge all reporters and editors to uphold the principles of responsible journalism and prioritize the truth and accuracy of their reporting over sensationalism and clickbait. The public deserves better than to be misled by unfounded innuendo.
The Black press has a responsibility to step up and do its part to foster a more informed and engaged public and not allow mainstream media and newspapers to marginalize Black leaders without pushing back especially when their reporting shows ignorance and fails to uphold the principles of responsible journalism.
About Paul Cobb
Paul Cobb is the Publisher of the Oakland Post Newspaper in Alameda County, which is part of the Post News Group. He is known as a West Oakland community organizer who once led the Oakland Citizens Committee for Urban Renewal and served as a mayoral appointee on the Oakland Board of Education.
Commentary: State Grants Are Providing Mortgage Relief to Californians Post-COVID
California Black News-Posted: July 28, 2022 By Tiena Johnson Hall | Special to California Black Media Partners
OPINION (CBM) – For many Californians of color, housing instability and inequity did not begin with the COVID-19 pandemic. Discriminatory housing and lending policies have long prevented communities of color from securing the right to stable housing. The gateway to homeownership – proven to be one of the most effective ways to build intergenerational wealth in America – has only drifted farther and farther out of reach for people of color in America and especially in California.
While the pandemic did not create these issues, it has compounded them, forcing more families into vulnerable positions and putting their homeownership at risk.
To those who are familiar with our country’s history, it is no surprise that Black and Latinx communities are especially impacted. The Little Hoover Commission found that over the course of the pandemic, Black and Latinx homeowners were more than two times as likely as white Americans to report being behind on their housing payments.
Responding to the most recent chapter of this crisis, California has $1 billion in federal support available to homeowners at risk of losing their homes due to lost work, increased medical costs, and other hardships brought on or exacerbated by COVID-19 and the associated economic impacts.
Launched in December 2021, the California Mortgage Relief Program has distributed grants of up to $80,000 to eligible homeowners from socially disadvantaged communities, including families of color, who have fallen behind on their housing payments.
Over the past six months, California has distributed relief funds to more than 2,800 households. Recent expansions to the program’s eligibility guidelines have opened the opportunity for even more homeowners to get caught up on missed housing payments.
We have made it a point to embed ourselves in our local communities and connect with vulnerable homeowners in the language that is most accessible to them. As these families work to recover from the ongoing financial burdens of the pandemic, there should be no additional barriers for them to access these resources.
A home goes beyond four walls and a roof. It is security. It is peace of mind. For many families, buying a home represents the unraveling of a system entrenched in inequality and lays the foundation of opportunity for future generations.
This housing relief cannot undo a history of exclusionary practices, nor end a global pandemic, but it can ensure that whatever progress these families have made toward intergenerational wealth is not erased due to circumstances beyond their control.
And that is the work we will continue to do for these families. For anyone suffering from inequality, we must always strive for better.
For Californians who lost wages, lost jobs, or faced the tragedy of a lost loved one during this terrible pandemic – and especially for those who have faced the additional challenges of historical housing discrimination – the California Mortgage Relief Program is here to alleviate some of the burden. Apply today at CaMortgageRelief.org.
About the Author
Tiena Johnson Hall, Executive Director, California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA)
Opinion: The Legislature Must Act Now to Fix Schools Failing Black Children
By California Black Media June 3, 2022
The Rev. Jonathan E.D. Moseley | Special to California Black Media Partners
(CBM) – I am a Los Angeles local who was educated in our public schools, Audubon Jr. High and Crenshaw High School. It’s been decades since I walked across the stage and received my diploma as a proud Cougar. One thing about then that remains true today is California’s Black students are falling behind in their academic performance. This poor academic performance is not limited to inequitable access to quality K-12 programs, inexperienced teachers, low expectations, racial bias, trauma and lack of services. Our youth deserve better, they deserve fairness and equity — and they deserve it now.
There’s a proposed fix that’s making its way through the State Legislature in Sacramento, AB 2774 (Assemblymembers Weber and Holden), Education Equity Now. Before I tell you about the solution, here’s what the proposal will address.
The subgroups identified then and who are currently receiving funding include English Language learners, low-income students, and foster/homeless youth. There is no denying students who are members of these groups deserve the additional financial support to ensure they are receiving the educational opportunities they deserve. However, the LCCF formula fails to include a subgroup of the lowest performing students to receive supplemental funds. For the past two decades that has been Black students.
The achievement gap for Black students is pervasive regardless of income. 2019 statewide testing data shows that Black students are the lowest performing subgroup with 67% not meeting English Language Standards and 79 % not meeting Math Standards. As a result of inadequate support and funding, Black students have the highest suspension rate of any subgroup at 8.8% and the lowest graduation rate at 76.8%.
his year marks 68 years since the Supreme Court ended school segregation with the decision in Brown v. Board of Education. That ruling was the first step in a long road to equality in our country’s educational system.
But we can’t stop there. Now, in California, a state known for its opportunity and innovation, we have the opportunity to continue pushing equality for our youth, our future and pass AB 2774.
This legislation will benefit Black students by creating a new supplemental grant for the lowest performing subgroup of students not receiving LCFF funds. It is estimated AB 2774 would help generate more than $400 million for public schools across the state to provide critically needed academic support for Black students.
When these funds are provided to historically under resourced, underserved communities, they will receive part of the resources needed to help give our schools what the need to achieve and meet a higher standard.
Education is the key to equity, equality, opportunity and advancement. We must provide the support and resources to our young people so that they can succeed.
When the bar is raised in our under-resourced communities, we can raise standards for all Golden State students, and we achieve together.
About the Author
The Rev. Jonathan E.D. Moseley is western regional director of the National Action Network (NAN).